With Ohio State already securing a Big Ten title on the gridiron, the quest for a conference championship on the hardwood begins. Coming off their first loss of the season, a tough 72-62 defeat at the hands of Syracuse, the Buckeyes will look to get back on track as they open up Big Ten play at home against Minnesota. The game will be broadcast at 7:00 p.m. ET on BTN.
After having the lead at halftime in their last time out, Ohio State just could not hold onto the lead against Jim Boeheim’s Orange.
The Buckeyes were outscored 43-31 in the second period, thanks in part to a stifling Syracuse zone defense and their potent three-point shooting. Junior guard Tyus Battle led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, while junior Elijah Hughes added 18 points with four makes from beyond the arc. As a team, the Orange knocked down 11 threes in 24 attempts.
Ohio State was led (kinda) by C.J. Jackson, who despite having a team-high 19 points shot just 4-of-14 from the field. Most of his points came at the charity stripe, where has was 9-of-12. Kaleb Wesson added 13 points and eight rebounds, but he too shot incredibly poorly (1-of-8) and got most of his points at the line (11-of-14). As a team, the Buckeyes shot 32.6 percent from the floor and hit only six of their 22 attempts from deep.
To make matters even worse for the Buckeyes, they lost starting point guard Luther Muhammad, who left the game late in the second period with what was later diagnosed as a dislocated shoulder — one that will keep him sidelined indefinitely. The freshman, and the highest rated player in Ohio State’s 2018 class, has been one of the team’s best defenders this season. He had a season-high six assists against Syracuse before going down.
Minnesota is a team trending very much in the opposite direction, as their 6-1 start has them on the cusp of a top-25 ranking. In their last time out, they took down a tough Oklahoma State team 83-76. Senior forward Jordan Murphy had a monster game for the Golden Gophers, dropping 24 points and adding a whopping 16 boards as he nearly single handedly led his team to victory. Minnesota was dialed in from three-point range, knocking down 8-of-14 from deep.
Murphy needs just one more rebound to total 1,000 in his career. With that one rebound and eight more points, Murphy will become just the 11th player in conference history with over 1,400 points and 1,000 rebounds in their career. While Murphy has impressed for the Gophers thus far, averaging 15.7 points and 12.7 boards per game this season, he is not alone. On Monday, guard Gabe Kalscheur was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Kalscheur nailed a game-winning three against Washington while also dropping a career-high 25 points against Santa Clara.
Despite four Power Five non-conference wins this season, No. 16 Ohio State will be the Gophers’ first matchup against a Top-25 team. Historically, Minnesota has not fared well against Ohio State, going 51-87 against the Scarlet and Gray — even worse on the road, where they are just 16-52. Head coach Richard Pitino is 2-6 all-time against Ohio State, losing the last two matchups. The Golden Gophers have not won a game away from home this season, as all six of their wins have come at Williams Arena or at a neutral site. Their lone true road game was a 68-56 loss at Boston College.
Vegas Line (as of Saturday night): OSU -6.5
ESPN BPI: OSU 78.9%
These two teams are scoring at nearly the same rate, with Ohio State averaging 78.3 points per game to Minnesota’s 76.9. The difference comes on the defensive end, where the Golden Gopher’s are allowing nearly 70 points per game whereas until their loss to the Orange, the Buckeyes had not allowed more than 62 points in a game to begin the year. Defense will be key for OSU in this one, which could be a bit more challenging without Muhammad’s presence.
The Buckeyes will have to do a much better job on the offensive side of the ball in this game, having a real tough time breaking through the Syracuse zone. Without Muhammad, look for guys like Duane Washington Jr. and Keyshawn Woods to see increased minutes. Washington Jr. has been prolific from the three-point line this season, knocking down nearly 45 percent of his attempts (13-of-29) through seven games. Ohio State will need his shooting, as well as a more efficient effort from C.J. Jackson in order to spread out the Minnesota defense and get back in the win column.
OSU will have their hands full with Jordan Murphy, which could lead to some foul trouble for big man Kaleb Wesson. When the two schools met a year ago, Wesson dropped 15 points and hauled in eight rebounds. If they can get another performance like that from their sophomore forward in this one, while even playing just decent defense against Murphy, it should be more than enough to get the Buckeyes the W.