(Photo courtesy Star Tribune)
The Buckeyes had an eight-day break between games, and head-coach Chris Holtmann was concerned regardless of the magnificent journey his team has been on. And then, well, came the trip to Minnesota.
The third-ranked Buckeyes fell flat just as Holtmann’s hindsight portrayed – and it isn’t by their own failures. Credit is certainly due to the Golden Gophers. Their all-around effort did the trick in their 84-71 victory over the Buckeyes on their court.
Marcus Carr scored a career-high 35 points and Daniel Oturu had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Minnesota tumbled the third-ranked Buckeyes for coach Richard Pitino’s first win against a top-five team.
“I thought we had some inconsistencies to our practice week,” Holtmann said. “You’re not always sure if that’s due to finals or whatever. Obviously, it was a significant layoff, but I don’t look at that as the reason that we lost. They were the better team tonight.”
Oturu outworked Kaleb Wesson in the paint to win the battle of two of the Big Ten’s best big men with his sixth double-double of the season for the Gophers (5-5, 1-1). Before this game, the highest-ranked opponent they had beaten in seven years under Pitino was No. 6 Maryland on Feb. 18, 2016. Minnesota beat the Buckeyes’ average scoring allowance by 30 points. That was fifth in the nation entering the game.
“I don’t know if there was a weakness in what we did,” Pitino said. “I just thought start to finish that was about as complete a game as we’ve played here.”
The Buckeyes stat sheet had D.J. Carton off the bench for 26 minutes of play and hitting for 19 points. E.J. Liddel, also from the bench, was in for 20 minutes with 14 points, five rebounds, and two blocks. Kaleb Wesson in 28 minutes of play had 12 points and six rebounds and six turnovers to show for his day.
The Ohio State University is only the latest team at or near the top of the Associated Press poll to fall in what has been a ‘festive’ first six weeks of the college basketball season. And, perhaps, this is a good thing for this talented team. Kentucky and West Virginia is coming up as well as the rest of the Big Ten season with the likes of TTUN, *ichigan State, and Maryland. Some simmering may be the medicine they needed.
“We weren’t physical enough. We weren’t the more ready team, and we got beat,” his brother Andre Wesson said. “We can either learn from it or put our heads down and keep doing this, but we’ll be ready.”
Kaleb Wesson picked up his fourth foul at the top of the key for an illegal screen. He lowered his shoulder into Kalscheur with 13:47 remaining on the clock. This is when Carr hit a swisher (a 3-pointer) for a 53-37 lead. The Buckeyes did get as close as nine points in the stretch with less than four minutes left, but Minnesota wasn’t having any of it, as Carr answered with another three-point play after a drive in traffic drew a foul on Andre Wesson to push the lead back to 72-60.
The Gophers may have caught a break, not to offer any excuse, as the Buckeye’s second-leading scorer and best 3-point shooter Duane Washington Jr., did not dress for the game because of a rib injury. Washington went 8 for 14 from 3-point range over the previous two games.
“His absence obviously leaves a scoring vacancy, but I don’t think it was ever really one of those games where it was within reach enough,” Holtmann said.
THE LARGER VIEW:
The Ohio State University: The Buckeyes squandered the opportunity to take one of the top two spots in the next AP poll, after No. 1 Louisville lost to Texas Tech earlier in the week. The last remaining unbeaten team in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes took the nation’s best scoring differential, an average margin of 26.2 points per game, into the night. They let the Gophers shoot 57.1% from the field in the second half.
Buckeyes: The Buckeyes return home to face Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday. Then they head to Las Vegas to face Kentucky. The Wildcats will be their third top-10 opponent of the season, in terms of ranking at the time of the game.