With the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes playing just their second true road game of the year on Sunday night, the big story line coming into this game was the inability of Big Ten teams to win on the road. Coming into this game, B1G teams were 0-12 on the road team in conference games; not a single visiting team was able to enter an opponent’s venue and leave victorious.
The Buckeyes were not able to buck that trend on Sunday night, leaving The Barn with their first defeat of the season, falling 84-71 to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
D.J. Carton led the Buckeyes Sunday night with 19 points, but even a career-high from the freshman point guard wasn’t enough to keep Ohio State in this one.
With Duane Washington Jr. dealing with a rib injury, Andre Wesson slid back into the lineup, joining Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young as the three forwards. CJ Walker and Luther Muhammad started at the point and off guard positions.
Neither team was too sharp in the first few minutes of this one, with the Gophers leading 11-9 at the first media timeout. Luther Muhammad hit a big three-pointer to tie it at 9, but the Gophers did a great job early bringing two — and sometimes even three — defenders to Kaleb Wesson to stop him from scoring.
While Minnesota was able to limit the younger Wesson early on, every other Buckeye seemed to get a bucket in his absence. When the second media timeout came at 11:43 in the first half, the Buckeyes led 14-13 and six different Buckeyes had already scored, including early buckets from freshmen D.J. Carton and E.J. Liddell.
E.J. Liddell has looked good on both sides of the court so far. The Buckeyes up 14-13 at the under-12 timeout. pic.twitter.com/RpbMZmdjZC— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 15, 2019
The Buckeyes — who had won eight straight games by 10+ points coming into this one — faced some adversity in this game for the first time since the season-opener against Cincinnati. Following a Gabe Kalscheur triple and a Tre’ Willams six-foot jumper that needed absolutely no rim to go in, the Buckeyes trailed 24-16, and Chris Holtmann was forced to call a timeout.
Minnesota was looking more like the Buckeyes than even the Buckeyes were, and the lead was getting closer to double digits. The Golden Gophers had six different players hit field goals in the first half, were shooting north of 50 percent from three, and were not allowing Kaleb Wesson to establish himself in the paint.
By the under-four media timeout, the Buckeyes still trailed 29-23. The Buckeyes were being out-rebounded and out-muscled by the Gophers, but more than that, Minnesota was running good sets, giving their shooters good looks, and most importantly they were knocking those shots down. They also were doing a great job walling off Kaleb Wesson during the first half, even when he was able to squeak out a bucket, as evident here:
coming out of the break, the Buckeyes go right into Kaleb who gets the old-fashioned three-point play. pic.twitter.com/RJ7fvt3Klt— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 16, 2019
There was not one, not two, not three, but four defenders there as Kaleb finished the layup down low. Nothing came easy for him in the first half.
By halftime, the Buckeyes trailed by nine, 38-29. Minnesota won the rebound battle, 19-15. Minnesota shot 51.7 percent from the floor, while the Buckeyes shot 34.5 percent. The Gophers went 5-11 from three-point range, while Ohio State was 3-9. Daniel Oturu led Minnesota with eight points in the first half, but Richard Pitino’s squad had four players score at least seven in the first frame.
Kaleb Wesson led Ohio State with eight points on 3-9 shooting. However you slice it, dice it, or examine it, the Gophers manhandled the Buckeyes through the first 20 minutes. The Cincinnati game was a back and forth battle, but nobody had come out and punched the Buckeyes in the mouth quite like the Gophers did on Sunday night.
For the first time this season, we got to see how this Buckeye team responded when forced to overcome adversity and claw back from a deficit, and unfortunately, it wasn’t pretty. A Marcus Carr elbow-jumper on the first Minnesota possession pushed their lead to 11, but Muhammad responded immediately with his second three-pointer of the game.
At the under-16 media timeout, the Buckeyes trailed 45-36, as they still couldn’t cool off the red-hot Gophers. Carr had five points in the first four minutes of the second half alone, and while the lead continued to hover around 10, the Buckeyes were having difficulty cutting into that deficit.
If things weren’t already difficult for Ohio State, it only got more complicated when Kaleb Wesson was whistled for his fourth foul, this one of the offensive variety nearly 25 feet from the basket, with 13:47 left in the second half. Immediately following that turnover, Carr forced his way into the now Kaleb-less paint for a bucket and extended Minnesota’s lead to 16. Holtmann was forced to call a timeout as The Barn began to rock.
The Buckeyes had been making a name for themselves this season with their suffocating on-ball defense and stingy protection of the paint, but neither of those things happened Sunday night in The Barn. Just two games after holding North Carolina to 49 points in the Dean Dome, the Buckeyes were ripped, rattled, and rolled by Richard Pitino’s Gophers.
At the under-eight media timeout of the second half, the momentum was solidly in favor of the Gophers, as was the lead. Trailing 61-47 with Kaleb Wesson on the bench, Ohio State did not have the size nor energy to compete with Minnesota. With Andre Wesson trying to guard Oturu (a four-inch difference), the Minnesota big man was able to impose his will on both ends of the floor.
When the final buzzer sounded, Minnesota had completed a thorough beating of the No. 3 team in the country. Carr scored a career-high 35 points, and had 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Oturu recorded a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Ohio State got 19 points from Carton and 12 from Kaleb Wesson in limited minutes, but the Buckeyes were inefficient as a whole, shooting only 38.3 percent as a team.
Ohio State will be back in action on Tuesday, Dec. 17 as they host Southeast Missouri State at 7 p.m. ET in a game broadcast on the Big Ten Network.