Trevor Mbakwe and Andre Hollins were the only starters for Tubby Smith on Wednesday to make a field goals. As a unit, the Minnesota Gophers starting lineup accounted for just six made field goals as the Ohio State Buckeyes took care of business, 71-45.
The offensive woes continued on Wednesday for the Gophers. The team shot less than 30 percent from the field and only made two three-pointers on the night.
The lack of production from the starting lineup gave way to a surprising bench effort for Minnesota.
Oto Osenieks had 10 points off the bench in 26 minutes while Maurice Walker had his best offensive performance in Big Ten play. Walker finished with seven points and five rebounds, but he also accounted for six turnovers in 17 minutes of action.
The Buckeyes (19-7, 9-5) slated a needed victory after losing three of its last four games. In comparison, the Gophers (18-9, 6-8) have now lost four of five.
Ohio State was led by its elite starters. The skills of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft caused havoc all night against Minnesota.
Thomas led with a game-high 19 points and Craft was a focal point on defense. He also added a three-pointer at the buzzer at the end of first half to give the team a 29-21 advantage.
Craft is the epitome of a catalyst for a top-tier basketball program. The reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year showed his strengths by being super glue on the defensive end.
Within a minute of play on Wednesday, the suffocating defense of Craft was prevalent for Ohio State. He left no space between himself and Hollins, sacrificing fouls for steals.
The aggressive play got into the head of Hollins and forced a shaky performance from the sophomore. It also led to dubious ball handling effort as a team.
Minnesota had 21 total turnovers.
At one point in the second half, the carelessness in ball control hit an all-time low.
With 8:10 remaining, Elliot Eliason took the ball at the top of key. He lazily handed the ball straight into the arms of the opposing defender, Evan Ravenel. The Buckeyes forward bolted to the other end for the dunk. Seconds later, Minnesota gave the ball over to Ohio State once more.
The Buckeyes accounted for 15 fast-break points along with numerous points off of turnovers.
News broke five minutes before tipoff that Rodney Williams would play and start for Minnesota after being labelled as a ‘game-time decision’.
The expectations from a fresh Williams to the starting lineup was quickly erased as the senior went to the bench within three minutes of play with two fouls. Williams played just eight minutes all game.
Joe Coleman joined him on the bench less than a minute later with two fouls of his own.
Yet, a victory still seemed to be a possibility before halftime. With less than 10 seconds to go in the opening half, the Gophers only trailed the Buckeyes by only three points.
Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross each finished in double-digits for Ohio State.
Minnesota now has six days to prepare for the Indiana Hoosiers back at Williams Arena with only four games remaining in Big Ten Conference play.