The rv/rv Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-8, 6-7) travel to Columbus to take on the #18/18 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5). Under Thad Matta the Bucks are 131-2 at home against unranked opponents. The game can be seen at 6pm CT on the Big Ten Network. (Photo: Jim Rogash / Getty Images)
Tubby Smith and the Gophers only have 5 regular season games left. A loss at Ohio State would put them 3 games out of 5th place.
Game Preview: Minnesota (18-8, 6-7) at #18/18 Ohio State (18-7, 8-5) 2/20/13
The Gophers took an early 21-5 lead Sunday in Iowa City before everything fell apart. The Hawkeyes would outscore Minnesota 67-30 from there and cruise to victory.
This may be one of those times when a game away from Williams Arena is welcomed by the coaches and players of the Minnesota Gophers. There has been a significant build in negativity among the Minnesota fan base after Sunday’s loss to Iowa and getting away could have its benefits.
Then again, the Buckeyes are 150-14 at home in the Thad Matta era.
Like Minnesota, Ohio State has lost three of four games and is coming off an ugly 71-49 loss at Wisconsin.
On paper, a Gopher win wouldn’t be a monumental upset, but it appears unlikely at best.
Like this season, these teams play each other just once. A year ago in Minneapolis the Buckeyes won 78-68 on the strength of a combined 47 points and 16 rebounds from William Buford and Jared Sullinger.
Both Buford (eligibility exhausted) and Sullinger (NBA draft, Celtics) are gone, but most everyone else is back this year.
That includes junior point guard Aaron Craft who stole the ball a personal and team season-high 6 times. The Buckeyes registered 10 steals and the Minnesota trio of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams were charged with 10 of the team’s 14 turnovers.
Offensive star Deshaun Thomas added 12 for the Bucks.
Rodney Williams turned in a good performance for the Gophers with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Julian Welch added 11 points, 5 rebounds and a season-high 9 assists.
Craft and Thomas figure to play leading roles for Ohio State on Wednesday. For Minnesota the answer to the question of who will step up is unknown. Rodney Williams continues to nurse a bad shoulder and may not start, while Julian Welch hasn’t had much of an opportunity this year to repeat what was a very good 2011-12 campaign.
In Big Ten play the teams have had similar shooting results. Ohio State holds a slight edge in eFG% (49.6% to 49.0%) thanks to a 1.5% advantage in 2FG%.
Neither team shoots a ton of 3-pointers, but Deshaun Thomas (55/143 for 38.5% on the season) and Lenzelle Smith (36/92 for 39.1%) are capable of knocking them down for the Buckeyes.
Aaron Craft’s shooting has been poor relative to his first two seasons and is a reason for Ohio State not being quite as good as some projected. Craft’s eFG% of 43.9% is down considerably from the 54.3% he shot during his first two seasons in Columbus.
Deshaun Thomas takes nearly a third of Ohio State’s shots when he is on the floor. A major issue has been finding a consistent number two scorer, but the Buckeyes have a number of kids who can put up double figures on any given night.
Minnesota’s 2-point field goal shooting has been consistent over the past four games. The problem is that it’s been consistently low, an average of 42.3%. They’ll likely need to be a lot better shooting the ball in order to pull off an upset Wednesday.
The Buckeyes should have an advantage in net turnovers with Aaron Craft (3.6% steal percentage) and Shannon Scott (5.0% steal percentage) likely to create several turnovers.
Against Iowa the Gophers turned the ball over 17 times and had their highest turnover percentage of the entire Big Ten season.
Minnesota continues to enjoy frequent advantages on the offensive boards this year, but they’ve run into trouble against some teams. That includes Wisconsin.
The poor rebounding performances against the Badgers are important to note because the Buckeyes have a similar profile: weak offensive rebounding, but very strong defensive rebounding.
Being the better rebounding team in this game is very important for Minnesota.
Minnesota gets to the line often, but Ohio State doesn’t send their opponents there much. Minnesota’s offense struggles to put up points when opportunities in transition aren’t there and the Buckeyes are a good defensive team. Getting to the free throw line will be a key part of the Gophers offense if they are to come out the victor.
With Deshaun Thomas being so vital to the Ohio State scoring attack, foul trouble would be a big issue. However, Thomas rarely fouls and has been whistled for four only once this year.
Follow J.B. Bauer on Twitter
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball