Holtmann Wins 100th at Ohio State in Win over Minnesota
16th ranked Ohio State, playing for the first time in 9 days, went on the road to Minneapolis and helped Chris Holtmann win his 100th game at Ohio State, downing the host Gophers 75-64 to get a win in Minneapolis for the first time since 2015. The win improved Ohio State’s record to 13-4 and 6-2 in Big Ten play, while the Gophers dropped to 11-6 and 2-6 in the Big Ten. An early 6-0 burst in the second half gave Ohio State a cushion and Minnesota would get no closer than 5 the rest of the way as the Buckeyes built a double-digit lead and cruised to a big road win. The Buckeyes returned Meechie Johnson back to the lineup, but were without starting PG Jamari Wheeler, day to day with a foot injury and yet they continue to persevere and win basketball games. E.J. Liddell, who scored his 1000th career point, led the Buckeyes with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. Zed Key added 12 points and 8 rebounds and Malaki Branham scored all 11 of his points in the first half to go along with 6 rebounds. Kyle Young also added 14 points for the winning Buckeyes. The Buckeyes dominated the glass, out rebounding the Gophers, who played much of the second half in a 2-3 zone defense, 48-22, including 20 offensive boards which helped the Buckeyes overcome a poor shooting night, hitting just 7 of 27 from long range. Jamison Battle, the Big Ten’s fifth leading scorer, led Minnesota with 15.
The Gophers scored the first four of the game to get the early lead, but back came the Buckeyes. E.J. Liddell got Ohio State on the board with a rebound and put back and Malaki Branham knocked down back to back pull-up jumpers from just above the foul line and the Buckeyes were on a 6-0 run. A Minnesota jumper tied it but after a Liddell steal, Liddell led a break up the floor and lobbed to a streaking Branham at the rim for a score and at the first media timeout, Ohio State led 8-6. On the next Buckeye possession, Kyle Young got into the lane and kicked to Branham at the top for three and Ohio State was up 5. Minnesota answered, drilling a three to cut the lead to two, but a rebound and put back by Young put the Buckeyes back ahead by 4. Minnesota cut the lead back to two and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State was on top 13-11. The Gophers evened it up out of the timeout with a jumper from the baseline, but a nifty Jimmy Sotos pass along the baseline found Young for a lay-in to put the Buckeyes back in front. The Gophers drilled a triple to go back ahead, but Ohio State regained the lead when Meechie Johnson drilled a long three from the top. Minnesota answered with a triple of their own and at the under 8 media timeout, the Gophers were now in front 19-18. Zed Key got the Buckeyes back ahead for a moment with a lay in left of the rim, but a Gopher answer put Minnesota back in front. Liddell scored on a rebound and put back, but a Gopher triple put Minnesota up a pair. A 9th offensive rebound of the game by Ohio State led to a Branham pull up J to tie the score. The Gophers went right back ahead, scoring at the rim, but a Liddell triple answered and put Ohio State ahead by one. The back and forth game continued as another Gopher triple dropped and Ohio State called timeout, trailing 29-27 with 2:48 remaining in the first half. Joey Brunk split a pair of free throws to get Ohio State within one and regained the lead when Liddell scored at the rim off a Young feed. A pair of Young free throws put Ohio State up three and the Gophers took a timeout with 19.1 seconds left in the half. Minnesota split a pair of free throws that ended the first half scoring with the Buckeyes taking a 32-30 lead into the locker room. Both teams shot 40% from the floor in the first half, but 5 Gopher triples kept Minnesota in the game, while the Buckeyes missed on 12 of their 15 attempts. Ohio State dominated in most areas of the game but the scoreboard, especially on the boards, out rebounding the Gophers 24-14 and out scoring Minnesota 13-4 in second chance points. Malaki Branham led Ohio State with 11 first half points, while E.J. Liddell added 9 points and 9 rebounds. Minnesota was led by Payton Willis’s 8.
An Justin Ahrens corner three opened the second half scoring and the Buckeyes were up five. Ohio State increased the lead on the next possession as Ahrens found Liddell who scored while being fouled. Liddell bagged the free throw for his 1,000th career point and completed the old-fashioned three point play to put the Buckeyes up 8. Minnesota finally got on the board in the second half, breaking a 6-0 Ohio State run, but Key caught the basketball on the left block, drop stepped and scored off the glass to keep the lead at 8. A Gopher triple cut into the lead, but back to back Young buckets put Ohio State up 9. A Gopher bucket trimmed the lead to 7 and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State led Minnesota 44-37. Out of the timeout, a pair of Young free throws put Ohio State back on top by 9. After a Minnesota miss, it was Young again, scoring just left of the lane with a jump hook. A 4-0 Gopher run cut the Buckeye lead back to 7, but Key backed into the lane and scored with the left hand off the glass and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State enjoyed a 50-41 lead. A pair of Gopher free throws after the timeout cut the lead to 7, but off an out of bounds play under the bucket, Young found Key off a screen and Key scored at the rim. A Gopher triple cut the lead to five, but consecutive rebounds and put backs by Key, Liddell and another by Key put the Buckeyes up 12. A Gopher triple stopped the 6-0 Buckeye run, but a Liddell triple from the top answered the Gopher three and at the under 8 minute timeout, Ohio State led 61-49. A pair of Gopher free throws out of the timeout trimmed the lead to 10, but Cedric Russell rose just below the three point line at the top and dropped in the J to put the Buckeyes back up 12. After a Gopher bucket, Russell drilled a triple from the left wing and Ohio State was up 13. Minnesota scored the next four and took a timeout with 4:44 to go and the Buckeyes leading 66-57. Liddell buried two free throws to stop the mini run and increase the Buckeye lead and a Russell triple put the Buckeyes up 71-57 at the final media timeout with 3:21 left in the game. The Gophers scored the next three to cut the Buckeye lead to 11 and a pair of empty possessions each way led Chris Holtmann to call timeout with 1:31 to play. Out of the timeout, Young found Liddell wide open under the rim for a dunk and after a Gopher hoop, Young found Liddell again under the bucket for another dunk. The Gophers scored again to once again cut the lead to 11 and that would do it as the Buckeyes claimed their third conference road win of the season.
We didn’t know what we would get coming into this game. Another extended break could have negatively affected this basketball team and Williams Arena is always a tough place to play, but Ohio State brought the level of energy they needed to win on the road and despite being short handed, they were able to get it done. If this Buckeye team can ever get fully healthy, they are going to be extremely dangerous. The MASH unit that is the Buckeyes lead the nation in games lost from rotation players and despite all of that, Ohio State is tied atop the Big Ten Standings in the loss column. This clearly reflects not only the coaching from Chris Holtmann and his staff, but a testament to the depth of this year’s team. From all accounts, Jamari Wheeler’s injury is very short term and Justice Sueing is nearing a return. There is still no word on Seth Towns’s progression, but getting Sueing and Wheeler back in the lineup is imperative to make a run to a potential conference title run.
The Buckeyes hit the floor again on Sunday, back on the road for a big one in West Lafayette, Indiana, visiting 6th ranked Purdue in a game scheduled for a Noon tip on CBS.