Fresh off of a 90-54 beatdown of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Wednesday night, No. 25 Ohio State traveled north to take on No. 21 Minnesota, hoping to knock off the Gophers for the first time since the 2018-2019 season.
After losing to Minnesota on the road last December, the Buckeyes welcomed Richard Pitino’s team to the Schottenstein Center for a rematch on Jan. 23, in hopes of getting payback and adding another quality win to their NCAA Tournament resume. Despite holding a double-digit lead at halftime, the Buckeyes couldn’t corral Marcus Carr as he scored 21 points in an eventual 62-59 Minnesota win.
With the game tied at 59 and just three seconds to go, Carr hit a soul-crushing three-pointer to deliver yet another January loss to Ohio State, as they continued to slide down the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes went 2-5 last January after starting the season 11-2.
Flash forward almost one year exactly, and Ohio State (8-3, 2-3) was given another opportunity to slow down Carr and the Gophers (10-2, 3-2), but once again Richard Pitino’s team got the better of Chris Holtmann. Carr, who entered the contest averaging 22.7 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game, finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Liam Robbins was the star for the Gophers, scoring a season-high 27 points to go along with 14 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists.
The Buckeyes played from behind the whole first half, trailing 43-37 at halftime despite holding Carr to just five points over the first 20 minutes. Robbins nearly set his season-high in points during the first half alone, scoring 16 on 5-of-7 shooting. Ohio State was led by Duane Washington Jr.’s 13 points heading into the break.
In the second half, Ohio State turned to the three-pointer to try and cut into the Minnesota lead, and that strategy was ill-advised, as they went 2-for-17 from beyond the arc in the second half. Minnesota, on the other hand, continued to pound the paint, extending their lead and drawing even more Buckeye fouls. Washington finished as the team’s leading scorer with 21 points, including a 5-of-7 performance from downtown.
As Ohio State began double-teaming Robbins rather than Carr, the Gophers’ star point guard was given more space to shoot, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half.
What were the key plays that ultimately led to the Minnesota victory? Here are the moments that mattered:
Batman and Robbins
While much of the attention was placed on Minnesota’s Marcus Carr heading into this game, it was 7-foot junior center Liam Robbins who made the difference early. Robbins scored seven points in the first three minutes of this one, with his layup at the 16:40 mark of the first half pushing the Gophers’ lead to 14-5. Chris Holtmann was forced to call a timeout with the Buckeyes on their heels.
Washington with the swipe & score
With the Buckeyes trailing 17-10 at the 13:17 mark, Carr poked a pass away that was meant for Duane Washington Jr. Carr took off down the court thinking he had an easy layup, but Washington Jr. chased him down and poked the ball out to prevent the easy two. The Buckeyes then went back down the court, where Washington Jr. sunk a triple. On the very next possession, Washington shot another three but missed. Justice Sueing grabbed the offensive rebound and fed it to Washington on the baseline, who got a six-foot jumper to drop, cutting the Minnesota lead to just two points.
Where’s the Carr?
While Robbins had a spectacular first half (16 points, five rebounds, four blocks, three assists), Carr struggled to get it going over the first 20 minutes. Ohio State was quick to double-team Minnesota’s star point guard, forcing him to defer to his teammates for much of the opening period. Ohio State has been burnt by Carr before, so the Buckeyes made a conscious effort to smother him as soon as he touched the ball. Carr finished with just five points on one of four shooting in the first half. He also recorded three assists without turning the ball over.
Minnesota went into halftime with a 43-37 lead.
Trouble on the boards
Ohio State was out-rebounded by Minnesota 18-14 in the first half, and scored just 10 points in the paint compared to Minnesota’s 16. Ohio State’s leading rebounder at halftime was Justin Ahrens with five. Ahrens’ season-high for rebounds was three heading into tonight’s game.
E.J. Liddell’s out-of-bounds turnover at the 13:15 mark of the first half was the third straight Buckeye possession that ended with them handing the ball right back to the Gophers. While the Buckeyes were starting to get defensive stops and continued to limit Carr, Ohio State simply couldn’t convert on the other end to cut into the eight-point Minnesota lead.
Carr fouled beyond the arc
With 9:48 to go in the game and Minnesota leading 62-50, Carr was fouled by CJ Walker shooting a three-pointer, sending Carr to the line for three at the charity stripe. Carr knocked down two-of-three shots, extending Minnesota’s lead out to 64-50.
Kalscheur finding his shot
Gabe Kalscheuer has been a dependable scoring option for Minnesota the past two seasons, but struggled immensely shooting the ball this season — until tonight. A 41% three-point shooter his freshman year and 34% from beyond the arc last season, Kalscheur came into tonight’s game shooting just 20.7% from downtown. He responded by scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. As has been the case for several years, Ohio State was a slump-buster for another struggling shooter.
No. 25 Ohio State returns home to take on Penn State (3-4, 0-3) on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. ET. The Nittany Lions will have a full week of rest after their scheduled game Sunday against Wisconsin was cancelled due to player safety concerns. The game will be broadcast on BTN.