The Buckeyes seek to extend their season record to 15-0 on Sunday when the Minnesota Golden Gophers visit Columbus for Ohio State’s third Big Ten conference game of the season. After a bit of a scare against Iowa last Tuesday, the Buckeyes should be primed for a tough game against a Minnesota squad that has been ranked as highly as #13 thus far. This will be Ohio State’s first home game in Big Ten play on the season, so the student section should be filled to capacity!
|School:||University of Minnesota, Twin Cities|
|Location:||Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota|
|Conference:||Big Ten Conference|
|Head Coach:||Tubby Smith|
After a decade following the 1996-1997 season that saw Minnesota make a run to the Final Four, only to have the accomplishment negated due to an academic scandal, Tubby Smith’s hire in 2007 brought new life to the program. Smith’s leadership has begun paying dividends, including consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in the last two years. A top 25 recruiting class after his first year has enabled Minnesota to field a team for the current season that can play with anyone in the country and will challenge for one of the top spots in the Big Ten.
After starting the season 11-1, the Gophers dropped their first two Big Ten games to Wisconsin and Michigan State before overcoming Indiana in their third conference matchup. Smith feels that someone on his team needs to take ownership of a “defensive stopper” role, and wants to see more aggression from his post players. The Minnesota big men are truly a strength of this current team, as Trevor Mbakwe, Ralph Sampson III, and Colton Iverson all provide solid minutes and can easily cause fits for others teams trying to score down low and grab rebounds. While having one defensive stopper probably isn’t enough to beat Ohio State this year, this will likely be the most significant challenge thus far for Jared Sullinger, who will find himself going up against Minnesota’s interior trio.
Mbakwe is averaging a double-double on the season for the Gophers, and his 13 points per game are matched by senior sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber. Hoffarber is Minnesota’s answer to Jon Diebler, and he lit up Ohio State for six second-half three’s when the Buckeyes traveled to the Twin Cities last year during the regular season, a game that ended in a loss for the Buckeyes. Fortunately, Thad made the necessary adjustments, and Ohio State subsequently beat Minnesota both in Columbus and in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. In the championship game the Buckeyes held Hoffarber to 0-3 shooting on their way to a 90-61 victory.
Aside from the conference losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State, Minnesota dropped a game to Virginia in November during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. A few of their more notable victories on the season have come against North Carolina and West Virginia. As they attempt to pick up what would be their biggest win thus far, watch for Minnesota to throw a variety of defensive looks at Sullinger and really crash the boards. It will be essential for Ohio State to keep Minnesota off the glass and take advantage of our speed and athleticism on the break whenever possible.
The game will tip-off at 2:00pm this Sunday and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
|Ralph Sampson III||15||26.6||10.9||5.7||1.3||0.5||2.1||1.3||0.464||0.677||0.273|