The Ohio State basketball team traveled to the Twin Cities on Sunday to play the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in another matchup of ranked teams in the Big Ten this year. Despite some sloppy play at times, the Buckeyes earned a solid 82-69 victory, taking their record to 24-0 on the season. The win serves as another quality road W for Ohio State and further legitimizes their spot as the #1 ranked team in the country.
The first half got off to a fast-paced start, with both teams running the floor and shooting early in the shot clock. The Buckeyes got multiple players involved early, as Sullinger, Lighty, Diebler, and Buford all picked up baskets in the first few minutes. Ohio State opened up an early lead but Minnesota kept it close, first courtesy of hot shooting by Blake Hoffarber and later in the half due to strong play on the offensive end by Ralph Sampson III, who scored on a variety of jumpers, lay-in’s, and free throws.
Going into the half, David Lighty led the way with 13 points for the Buckeyes, who were up by a score of 38-30. The senior leader came out very aggressive in the game, demonstrating both his usual defensive intensity and a willingness to look for his shot. At the start of the game Lighty drove strong to the hoop for his points, and later displayed an outside touch, knocking down two contested three-pointers. Jared Sullinger only logged 6 points in the first, a credit to Minnesota’s interior defense, but the freshman big man was able to contribute 8 rebounds.
For the Gophers, Sampson led all scorers with 14 while Hoffarber posted 10. Despite the hot shooting early that saw both teams hitting in the range of 50-60%, the accuracy slackened on both sides to a less impressive 44% by the first half horn. The statistics showed that Ohio State controlled the boards, but this was largely due to multiple offensive rebounds picked up consecutively on missed shots in the same possession.
As the second half began, the pace again picked up, but neither team grabbed an advantage, instead falling into sloppy play and turnovers. Dallas Lauderdale was the surprising bright spot, connecting on three dunks before 4 minutes had ticked off the clock and extending Ohio State’s lead to 48-37. Lauderdale had to go to the bench after picking up his third foul, but Ohio State kept the pressure on, and Minnesota continued to falter on offense, leading to several Ohio State fast breaks. Unfortunately, the team failed to connect on free throw’s, shooting a pathetic 2-8 from the line through the 13-minute mark.
The game became increasingly physical as time ticked on, and Minnesota managed to close the gap to 10. David Lighty was the lone Buckeye consistently effective, and Jared Sullinger was strangely quiet. Midway through the second neither team had a good rhythm until Jon Diebler knocked down his third triple of the game. The three-ball seemed to wake up both teams, but only Ohio State translated the energy into offense, picking up a three from Aaron Craft for his first points of the game, followed by a steal and drive that resulted in Sullinger going to the line for his first made free throw of the game.
The lead grew to 19 on a Sullinger and-1 play. Blake Hoffarber hit his fourth three of the game, but Aaron Craft came right back with a strong drive and lay-in. Moving into the final five minutes of the game, Craft was effectively controlling the tempo, repeatedly finding the open man and making the right decisions on offense until fouling out with four minutes remaining. Fortunately, the Buckeyes had enough momentum to carry it home for the win.
For the game, Ohio State had all 5 starters in double figures scoring. Jared Sullinger came on strong down the stretch and finished with 18 points and 13 boards in another impressive outing, although his free throw rate of 2-8 for the game was a significant blemish on his line. David Lighty posted 19 and William Buford had 15 for the Buckeyes, who limited their turnovers to 8 while picking up 18 assists. Blake Hoffarber finished with 16 for Minnesota, who turned the ball over 19 times.
Ohio State now has one week to rest and prepare for a huge road game at Wisconsin next weekend. Most basketball commentators have identified the game against the Badgers as the first game that Ohio State will lose this year, and Bo Ryan’s track record at the Kohl Center certainly gives weight to that perspective. It will no doubt be the hardest game of the year for Ohio State, and a win could finally silence the critics. Check back for the game preview and other thoughts as we move toward next Saturday’s big game!