Value City Arena
After losing five of six games last month, Ohio State has righted their ship and now won five of their last six games. The Buckeyes will try and build on their winning ways tonight in Columbus when they take on a Minnesota team that has been struggling of late.
The Golden Gophers hosted Illinois on Wednesday night and held a 27-24 lead at halftime on the Fighting Illini, but they fell apart in the second half as Illinois went on to notch a 62-49 victory. The loss was the sixth in the last nine games for Richard Pitino's team, who now find themselves looking for an identity after entering conference play with two losses.
Ohio State will have revenge on their mind when they tip off with Minnesota tonight after dropping a 63-53 decision to the Golden Gophers last month at Williams Arena. The loss at the time was the third loss in a stretch of four straight losses for the Buckeyes. The biggest reason that Minnesota was able to claim victory in the game was their work in the paint. Led by 12 points and 13 rebounds from Elliott Eliason, Minnesota was able to out-rebound Ohio State 39-24 and register a 38-20 edge in points in the paint.
LaQuinton Ross was the main standout for the Buckeyes in last month's meeting, scoring 22 points while the other four Buckeyes starters were only able to contribute 19 points combined. Ohio State might be lucky to have Ross in this contest though after he was ejected for his role in a skirmish in Wednesday night's 76-60 win over Northwestern. Nikola Cerina was also ejected in the game for taking a swing at Amir Williams with a closed fist with just over five minutes left in the second half. While Cerina was suspended for his team's next game, Ross was able to avoid that same fate.
The altercation overshadowed how the Buckeyes were able to find their game after trailing the Wildcats 25-16 in the first half of the game. Ohio State was able to use a 25-5 run that started with over five minutes left in the first half and carried over to the first four minutes of the second half. During that run Ohio State was able to set the tone when the teams came out for the second half, scoring the first nine points after the halftime break. To go along with the 16 points from Ross, Aaron Craft was able to score 14 points and register four steals and Lenzelle Smith Jr also added 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
After falling apart in the second half against Michigan last Tuesday, Ohio State has tried to make up for that lapse, putting the clamps on their opponents the last two games after halftime. Illinois was only able to muster 16 points on Saturday against the Buckeyes while Northwestern was outscored 39-27 after half on Wednesday night.
With only three games left after tonight's game, Ohio State can't afford to stumble if they have any designs on earning a first round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes are currently sitting on the outside looking on of the top four in the Big Ten, but as we've seen this year anything can happen within this deep conference. After they square off with Minnesota tonight, the Buckeyes will return to the court Thursday night at Penn State, while the Golden Gophers face a tough upcoming week with a home game against Iowa on tap Tuesday before a matchup with Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Numbers to Know
For as much havoc as the Buckeyes have created on the defensive end it might be surprising to find out that Minnesota is tops in the Big Ten with 7.8 steals per game. In the last meeting the Golden Gophers were able to rack up 12 steals against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is 26-4 against Minnesota when the Buckeyes are ranked inside the AP Top 25. One of those losses did come last month when the Buckeyes were ranked when they visited Minnesota.
That was the last season that Minnesota swept Ohio State. It was also the last time that Minnesota beat Ohio State in Columbus. The Buckeyes have won six straight in the Capital City since then.
Cast of Characters
The younger Hollins is the leading scorer on the season for Minnesota, averaging 14.9 points per game. Even though he is a junior, Andre reached the 1,000 point plateau earlier in the season just one game after the older Austin, a senior, reaches that mark.
Mathieu has been a great edition to the Golden Gophers this season after transferring from Central Arizona. Mathieu gives Minnesota a threat behind the arc, shooting 46% from behind the three-point line. In the last meeting with Ohio State he was the high scorer in the game for Minnesota with 13 points.
After Minnesota's effectiveness in the paint in last month's matchup, the Buckeyes will need Amir to put up a strong front on the block if they have designs on winning. Amir has been struggling with his shot lately, on going 1-8 from the field over his past two games.
On Wednesday night Thompson scored 11 points, ending a stretch of eight straight games in which he failed to reach double figures. In the last game against the Golden Gophers, Thompson scored 12 points off the bench, making him the only other Buckeye besides Ross to hit double digits in scoring.