The Gophers rebounded from a forgettable loss to Boston College, winning in front of home fans against Oklahoma State as part of the inaugural U.S. Bank Stadium Classic on Friday evening, taking down the Cowboys 83-76. Minnesota reversed course in a big way offensively, shooting 52% from the field for the game, including 57% from deep and 77% from the line. It stemmed a disturbing offensive trend for the Gophers, who hadn’t sniffed 40% from the field in two weeks, and put them back on track as their attention turns to two early-season conference rivals.
Thanks to the expanded conference schedule, the Big Ten starts its conference season early in December, where each team plays two games before going back to non-conference programming for the remainder of the month. I’m not fan of the current structure (it has no continuity), but it is what it is.
The Gophers get to go back on the road 24 hours after a “neutral site” game to face Ohio State as they kick off the conference season. It’s a tall order. Minnesota hasn’t won in Columbus since Dan Monson was the coach and face a Buckeye team that has already notched wins over Cincinnati and Creighton, both of which came on the road. OSU lost at home to Syracuse on Wednesday.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1)
What time are they playing?
Sunday, Dec. 2 @ 6 p.m. CT
Where are they playing?
Value City Arena (Columbus, OH)
Can I watch the game on TV?
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM
Tell me more about the opponent.
Head coach Chris Holtmann is in his second season after coaching the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament’s second round last year. Ohio State lost a significant portion of its scoring with the departures of Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop, which turns the roster over from veteran-laden to full of underclassmen.
So far this year, senior guard C.J. Jackson and sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson have stepped up to fill the vacuum, with Wesson leading the team in scoring and rebounding (14.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg) and Jackson chipping in 13.6 ppg.
But the Buckeyes have buttered their bread this year with a stingy defense currently ranked 27th in the country. In fact, only one team, Syracuse, has scored more than 62 on the Buckeyes so far this season and they’re 14th in the nation in defensive effective FG%. For a Minnesota team that had trouble shooting the ball, that’s hardly welcome news.
Offensively, they’re no slouches either and rank 31st in eFG% (the Gophers are 191st) with the 36th best overall offense according to KenPom.
What to Watch For
Isaiah Washington’s ascent?
Did we see a light bulb turn on in the Oklahoma State game? Washington had sleep-walked through the majority of the season, looking lost in the half-court, taking questionable shots and not playing the part of reliable, starting PG that the Gophers needed. On Friday, though, he looked more of the part, playing his best game of the season while scoring 15 points and dishing out four assists in 20 minutes. While it wasn’t a complete performance — there were still far too many bad shots and decisions — it was definitely a step in right direction for the embattled sophomore.
One game does not a trend make, and the competition level takes a significant uptick against Ohio State on the road, but we’ll see if Jelly uses the Oklahoma State performance as a stepping stone to continued growth.
Dupree McBrayer’s offensive output
One game after going 0-8 from the field (all three point attempts), McBrayer got back into the scoring column with a 10-point performance on 4-6 shooting. After a four-point game against Washington and a goose egg on the road against Boston College, it was a welcome return double digits. But it was less about the bottom line and more that McBrayer looked comfortable taking three-point attempts. Going 0-8 against BC was uncharacteristic, but continued a streak of subpar shooting from deep. Prior to Friday’s victory, he’d gone a ridiculous 3-25 over the previous five games.
For the Gophers to succeed in conference play, they’ll need baseline performances from Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey and McBrayer, and absolutely can’t afford any of the three to completely disappear.
The Gophers are the clear underdog in this one, which isn’t surprising. KenPom likes Ohio State by six points, giving them a 73-67 nod. Minnesota hasn’t won in Columbus in 13 years and I don’t think the streak ends today. I’ll take the Buckeyes by eight, 80-72.