Cold-shooting Gophers stumble in Big Ten opener at No. 16 Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio Early Big Ten games can be a blessing or a curse for teams depending on how much theyve grown in the first month of the season.
Records can be misleading, too.
Minnesota and Ohio State both entered Sundays conference opener with 6-1 records and wins against quality opponents. The Gophers, though, looked completely overmatched from the start in a 79-59 loss against the No. 16 Buckeyes at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes (7-1) bounced back from a loss to Syracuse by pulling away in the first half with 21-2 run and never letting up. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmanns team dominated an area that Minnesota coach Richard Pitino had hoped would be a strength for his squad its defense.
But the Gophers (6-2) were 14th in three-point defensive percentage (34.6), 13th in field goal percentage defense (43.9), 12th among Big Ten teams in scoring defense (69.3) coming into Sunday.
And thats with an offense that can be just as bad at times.
A jumper from Kaleb Wesson gave Ohio State a 26-7 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. The Gophers managed to get within eight by getting some late baskets in transition, including an alley-oop dunk from Isaiah Washington to Jarvis Omersa.
Minnesota still faced what turned out to be an insurmountable 11-point halftime deficit.
Two days after his 26-point and 14-rebound performance in Fridays win over Oklahoma State, Jordan Murphy managed just seven points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes of his Big Ten debut. Murphy, who became the 14th player in Big Ten history to reach 1,000 career rebounds Sunday, was the nations rebounding leader through seven games, but he was held in check by the Buckeyes.
Amir Coffey had 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting to lead the Gophers, who try to regroup with one more early conference game Wednesday at home against Nebraska.
Factoring in the flat performance for the Gophers had to be playing away from home for the sixth straight game. The last time they were at Williams Arena was in a Nov. 12 win against Utah, which seems like an eternity ago.
It probably wouldnt have mattered where the game was played Sunday. The Buckeyes were superior in every way, but what clearly separated them was toughness still lacking from their Big Ten counterpart.
Andre and Kaleb Wesson combined for 31 points to lead six players in double figures scoring, but the Buckeyes also held Minnesota to 0-for-13 shooting from three-point range and won the rebounding battle 42-33.