Ohio State returned home on Thursday night after playing four of its last six games away from Value City Arena — all of which wound up as losses. It has been tough times for the Buckeyes ever since the calendar flipped to 2020, but with a ton of games left this season, Chris Holtmann and the boys have more than enough time to turn things around and return to the form that saw them knock off some of the top teams in the country previously this year.
Tipoff was earlier than usual for this Big Ten bout, with game time set for around 6:30 p.m. EST. Despite all of its recent struggles and having already lost to Minnesota earlier in the season, Ohio State entered the contest as 8.5-point favorites. The B1G has been one of the toughest conferences in the country, and winning on the road has seemed nearly impossible for almost every team in the league. The Buckeyes would hope to take advantage of home court against a 10-8 (4-4 in B1G) Golden Gophers squad as they tried to find any sort of momentum moving forward.
It was not to be, as Ohio State lost for the sixth time in its last seven contests. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer Kaleb Wesson was held to just two points on 1-of-10 shooting, while Minnesota’s Marcus Carr torched OSU for the second time this year as he dropped a game-high 21 points. Kyle Young led all Buckeyes with 14 points, while Wesson hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds in a losing effort.
With the two teams tied at 59, Carr pulled up from three and drilled a game-winning shot with three seconds remaining to seal the deal for the Gophers. Ohio State moves to 2-6 in Big Ten play as the season continues to spiral downward.
Let’s take a look at some things we learned in this latest edition of Ohio State hoops.
Back in the starting five
Two games ago in the team’s win over Nebraska, both Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. were suspended for a “failure to meet program standards and expectations” by head coach Chris Holtmann. While the actual cause for the suspension was never made public, it would last just one game. The pair of sophomore guards returned for the next game against Penn State, but both came off the bench.
Muhammad played just nine minutes against the Nittany Lions, scoring six points — all at the free throw line — with an assist and a steal. Washington played more in his usual role as the first man off the bench, as Holtmann likes to use the sniper as a way to insert instant offense into his lineup. Washington played 26 minutes against Penn State, scoring a team-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. While things with Washington seemed back to normal, Muhammad still looked to be in the dog house.
He would return to the starting lineup against Minnesota, starting alongside CJ Walker at the two guard spots. Muhammad was more involved this time around, playing 23 minutes against the Gophers, but still mustered only four points with three rebounds and two assists. While his defense was solid, it just seems like the sophomore’s confidence on the offensive end is still not quite there.
Beating up the boards early
The Buckeyes are certainly not the biggest team in the country. With Kaleb Wesson being the team’s tallest player to see regular minutes at 6-foot-9, it would not be shocking to see Ohio State getting out-rebounded by teams with big dominant centers on the regular basis. In fact, the last time OSU played against Minnesota and 6-foot-10 center Daniel Oturu, they were out-rebound 40-28, with Oturu hauling in 13 boards of his own.
This was not the case on Thursday night, as Ohio State was shockingly good on the glass. In the first period, the Buckeyes out-rebounded the Gophers a whopping 22-12. Kaleb Wesson led the way with nine boards, with Kyle Young totalling four and D.J. Carton having three in the opening 20 minutes of play. Oturu was off to a much slower rebounding pace than the last time the two teams met, having only two boards heading into the break.
Rebounds evened out a bit moving forward, with Minnesota having a slight 16-12 edge in the second period. Even still, Ohio State was able to win the rebounding game overall at 37-31 against a team with one of the best centers in the country, as Oturu finished with six boards.
Where are the Wessons?
Ohio State is used to getting big-time scoring performances from Kaleb Wesson, and Andre Wesson has been shooting at a high percentage all season. Kaleb has been the team’s leading scorer, averaging nearly 15 points per game, while Andre has averaged a little over nine points per game on 47.5 percent shooting. Against the Golden Gophers, however, the Buckeyes held a nine-point lead heading into halftime, but the Wesson brothers combined for just four points. What was going on?
A number of factors led to the low scoring output for the two Wessons in the first period. Andre Wesson, who had all four of the brothers’ points, attempted just three shots in the opening 20 minutes, sitting for the majority of the time in some foul trouble. Kaleb, on the other hand, had the daunting task of matching up with Oturu.
Even though the younger Wesson brother was yet to crack the scoreboard, he was doing a phenomenal job on the defensive end, holding Oturu to zero points in the first period. He was also dominating on the boards, hauling in nine rebounds in the half and doing a great job of setting screens and facilitating on the offensive end.
Things did not get better for the Wessons in terms of points in the second period. Andre finished with six points on 3-of-4 shooting, while Kaleb Wesson had one of his worst shooting performances of the year with two points on a paltry 1-of-10 from the field. In the end, Ohio State was not able to overcome the absence of points from two of its biggest sources of offense.
A classic Big Ten battle
If someone asked you to describe a classic Big Ten basketball game, you would certainly not tell them to expect a fast-paced, high-scoring shootout. Every team in this conference plays with a similar style: a gritty edge on defense, and a commitment to moving the ball to find an open shot on offense. There are few transition baskets, and even fewer isolation plays. As a result, scoring is generally not all that high by the time the dust settles.
All of those descriptors could be used for Thursday night’s game, as neither team shot particularly well and seemingly every basket was contested. Ohio State actually hit 50 percent of its attempts in the first half, but turned the ball over seven times as they put up 37 points in the opening period. Minnesota was clean with the ball in that same span, with only one turnover in the period, but hit a measly 37 percent of its shots as they scored just 28 points before the break.
The shooting percentages flipped in the second period, with the Gophers hitting at a 48 percent clip and the Buckeyes hitting 37 percent in the half. Overall, the two teams managed to meet in the middle as they both shot 43 percent from the field overall, and the low-scoring Big Ten prophecy came to fruition as neither team was able to score more than 62 points in the game.
A Carr with no brakes
The last time these two teams met, Ohio State was decimated by Marcus Carr. The sophomore guard put up a career-high 35 points on 12-of-17 shooting. He was 3-of-6 from the three-point line, 8-of-9 from the charity stripe, and added another seven assists and two steals to his stat line. It was an absolutely dominant performance, and one that the Buckeyes could absolutely not happen again if they had any chance of knocking off the Gophers the second time around.
It wasn’t as ridiculous as last time, but it was pretty much more of the same for Carr on Thursday against Ohio State. He willed his team to victory with another dazzling performance on the offensive end, as the guard finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists. The sophomore hit on 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc, including the game-winning bucket with three seconds left to secure the victory. In both contests between the two schools this season, the Buckeyes just had no answers to stop Carr, and in both cases it would ultimately cost them the game.