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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Ohio State

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Gophers face tall order in first conference home game

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The taste of victory was fleeting for the Gophers, who followed up a nice win over Clemson by getting obliterated by the Iowa Hawkeyes in their Big Ten opener.

It wasn’t pretty. Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur combined to go 1-20 from the field, tallying just two points between the two. Payton Willis was 2-9, leaving Daniel Oturu and Alihan Demir as pretty much the lone contributors. It was a dismal showing and hardly represented Minnesota’s new identity as a “shooting” team. For a team that is particularly thin in the front court, the shooting woes that have plagued the Gophers against good teams this season should be particularly concerning. They will go nowhere fast without consistent support from their back court.

Now, Minnesota gets to face the hottest team in the conference, the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently ranked #3 in the nation and are KenPom’s top overall team. This might get worse before it gets better.

Essentials:

Opponent:

Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0, 1-0)

Date and Time:

Sunday, Dec. 15 @ 5:30 p.m. CT

Location:

Williams Arena

TV:

BTN

Radio:

KTLK 103.5-FM/1130-AM

Tell me more about the opponent.

This isn’t going to be fun. Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country and one of the best offenses to support it. They have an eFG of 58% and are holding their opponents to an eFG of 39%. And this hasn’t come against poor competition either.

In fact, the Buckeyes may be the hottest team in the country. They’ve notched wins against Villanova, Cincinnati and North Carolina already, and recently racked up 100 points in a dominating win over Penn State.

Richard Pitino has been particularly inept against the Buckeyes, and is just 2-7 in his career against OSU, with a three-game losing streak. It won’t get any easier for Pitino tonight, either. OSU is outscoring its opponents on average by 26.2 points per game, the largest margin in the nation. Defensively, the Buckeyes are holding opponents to 33.3 percent field goal shooting and 54.7 points per game, figures that rank second and fifth nationally. They’re led by a pair of double-figure scorers in center Kaleb Wesson, who averages team highs of 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, and Duane Washington, who is putting up 11.4 points per game.

Predictions

Can the Gophers shake their shooting funk? I was as skeptical as anyone when Pitino said they’d be a shooting team this year. I mean, I can’t even remember a Minnesota team that shot well from outside the paint. And it certainly hasn’t come to fruition this year either.

Oturu is the proving to be the lone reliable offensive weapon, and he’s really good. If he stays out of foul trouble he’s a lock for 18 points and 10 rebounds. But until he gets consistent support from Carr, Kalscheur and Willis this team will go nowhere fast. What a mess.

Buckeyes roll in this one by 15. The last time they won by single digits was the first game of the season.