The Chris Holtmann era hasn’t suffered a loss yet this season in Big Ten conference play, as the Ohio State Buckeyes (17-4, 8-0) took down the Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-8, 3-6), 67-49, inside the storied Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Propelled by a strong first half from C.J. Jackson and Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes cruised to victory. At one point, the Bucks biggest lead was 21 points with 5:55 left in the second half.
Keita Bates-Diop had a sluggish first 20 minutes of action, hitting just 3-of-9 shots for a total of six points. However, by the time the final horn sounded inside MSG, KBD tallied 17 points and 12 boards. His point and rebound totals were the most by anyone on the floor. Also of note: KBD needed just five points in this game to reach the 1,000 point mark for a career.
Wesson had a breakout game in New York City, scoring 15 points off 7-of-9 shooting; he also snagged eight rebounds, too.
Jackson was dialed in from long distance, sinking 3-of-7 shots from three-point range en route to an 11-point afternoon.
Minnesota’s trio of double-digit scorers in Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy got their points, however, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Buckeyes’ trio of point scorers.
From the field, both teams struggled in the second half to string together makes. Ohio State ended the game with 41 percent shooting off of 27-of-66 shots; Minnesota made 18-of-47 baskets from the field.
Turnovers were a big factor in the Buckeyes’ win. Minnesota committed 15 of them (compared to eight by OSU), which were converted into 22 points for the Scarlet and Gray. Of those 15 turnovers, 10 of them were steals by the Buckeyes.
On second chance points, the Buckeyes dominated the Gophers, 15-3. So, it’s not too surprising that OSU had more offensive rebounds than Minnesota (12-6).
Chris Holtmann has now won his first eight games since taking over as head coach of the Buckeyes. For a coach that’s started at a Big Ten school, that streak is the third best of all-time. Only Iowa’s Sam Berry (11-0) in 1923 and Wisconsin’s Walter Meanwell (12-0) in 1912 had better starts.
Here’s how Saturday’s game at MSG went down.
In the first half, the Buckeyes started off to a 4-0 lead behind baskets from Bates-Diop and Williams. However, Minnesota would capture their first lead of the game, 7-6, at the 16:29 mark.
A flurry of possessions later—which included Mason hitting a jumper and Micah Potter slamming the ball home—and the Gophers still held on to an early lead, 13-10, with 12:50 left before the halftime horn sounded. The difference, though, in the next few minutes, was that the Gophers were about to pull away with their largest lead of the half.
Mason knocked down a three and Murphy put away two field goals of his own to lift Minnesota to a 10-point, 20-10, lead with 11 minutes left. But, like in games before, the Buckeyes weren’t going down without a fight. A jumper from Tate, followed later by a trio of three-pointer from C.J. Jackson, and a deep ball from the land of three from Kaleb Wesson flipped the scoreboard; Ohio State paced out in front to a 26-22 lead with 6:31 left to play in the first frame.
Not soon before long, a quartet of free throws from Tate and another basket from Wesson—this time a layup—would completely flip the scoreboard, as the Buckeyes had a 10-point lead with under four minutes remaining. By the time halftime arrived in the storied Madison Square Garden, OSU held onto a 38-31 lead, behind an 11-point half from Wesson and Jackson. Bates-Diop corralled six points in the half, but did so on 3-of-9 shooting.
Back from the break, Williams missed a jumper, but made up for it by stealing the ball from Mason and taking it the other way for a layup. If you were a fan of scoring, the next two minutes of play were rough. Dupree McBrayer clanked on a three, then Tate missed on a dunk; Murphy misconnected on a layup, which then led to Bates-Diop clanking on his three-point attempt. Two more three-point attempts didn’t connect—one from Mason and another from KBD—before a basket finally fell through. McBrayer’s jumper broke the cold streak on the floor.
But as soon as he hit his shot, the Buckeyes picked up the pace, going on a 6-0 run. Minnesota, conversely, spent the next two minutes without scoring a single point. Coach Richard Pitino burned a timeout with 15:22 left in regulation, but the damage was done: Ohio State had a 46-33 lead.
Murphy and Mason made a couple shots to bring Minnesota within 10, but the awakening of KBD was about to occur. The Buckeye forward put home a layup at the 11:44 mark of the second half—and drew a foul. He hit his free throw, and then connected on another jumper after Mason scored on a layup. Micah Potter’s layup with 10:41 left put OSU up 55-40, which was good, as both teams went back on a cold stretch from the field.
The Gophers missed on five straight shots and went on a 3:45 scoring drought, while a Wesson layup at 8:04 increased OSU’s lead to 57-40. Wesson’s connection stopped the Buckeyes’ streak of four missed baskets.
Tate then drove in for a layup; he made the shot and drew a free throw—which he made. His made basket was the last basket we would see for the next three minutes, as made shots came at a premium. A trio of McBrayer freebies and two KBD free throws would be all the points we would see as the under-4 minute media timeout arrived at the 3:30 mark.
At this point, the Buckeyes made only two of their last 11 shots; the Golden Gophers only one of their last eight. However, the game was far enough away for the Buckeyes to walk away from Madison Square Garden with the win.
Up next for Ohio State will be Nebraska on Monday night. The game is scheduled for tip off at 8 p.m. ET, and will be back in the friendly confines of Value City Arena. BTN will broadcast the game.