Minneapolis, MN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Golden Gophers will try once again to secure their first Big Ten Conference win of the season, as they entertain the 22nd-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Tuesday night.
Ohio State bounced back from a conference-opening loss to visiting Iowa on Dec. 30 by defeating Illinois at home this past Saturday, 77-61. The Buckeyes are playing only their second true road game of the season tonight, and they came up short in the other, 64-55, at Louisville as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge back on Dec. 2.
At 11-2, Minnesota was among the more successful teams in the country through the first six weeks of the season, but the start of Big Ten play has seen the team fall twice already. The Golden Gophers tipped off the league ledger with a 72-68 loss at Purdue, and then followed that up with a 70-58 setback at Maryland on Saturday. Thankfully, Minnesota returns home for this bout, where the team is 9-0 this season.
Ohio State owns an 81-56 lead in the all-time series with Minnesota, and the Buckeyes have won seven of the last eight meetings, including two of the last three in Minneapolis.
D'Angelo Russell scored 22 points, while Marc Loving and Sam Thompson tacked on 13 apiece to help Ohio State win its first Big Ten bout of the campaign versus Illinois over the weekend. The Buckeyes shot a sizzling 60 percent from the floor, knocking down 7-of-16 3-point attempts along the way, while holding the Fighting Illini to 44.4 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 9- of-24 showing from beyond the arc. Both teams were rather careless with the basketball, with Illinois guilty of 20 turnovers and Ohio State 18. Both also didn't do much on the glass, particularly at the offensive end, as the Illini finished with just 21 rebounds (three on offense), while the Buckeyes logged 26 (two on offense).
In averaging 17.7 ppg, Russell continues to pace Ohio State in the scoring column, while also doing what he can to get his teammates involved by handing out 5.1 apg. Shannon Scott leads the way in that latter category, as he dishes out 7.4 helpers per contest. Loving (12.3 ppg) and Thompson (10.4 ppg) are the only other players averaging double figures in scoring for the Buckeyes, who generate 83.4 ppg while allowing only 59.5 ppg. Favorable margins in both rebounding (+4.9) and turnovers (+6.0) have also helped the team's overall cause.
Maurice Walked produced a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Morris tacked on 18 points of his own, but those efforts weren't enough as Minnesota dropped a 12-point decision at Maryland on Saturday. No other Gopher scored more than five points, as the team shot a miserable 33.8 percent from the field, missing the mark on all but three of its 22 3-point tries. Morris went just 2-of-10 from distance, while Andre Hollins went 0-of-6. UM also struggled at the foul line (11-of-21), and was beaten on the boards (44-35) as well.
Balance has been the key to Minnesota's success this season, as four players average in double figures, and two more net at least 9.4 ppg. Morris paces the team with his 13.1 ppg, Walker and Hollins both produce 12.5 ppg, with the former also leading the team in rebounds (5.9 rpg) and blocks (24). Nate Mason adds 10.2 ppg to the mix, while DeAndre Mathieu serves as the squad's primary playmaker with 88 assists. Overall, the Gophers are putting up 80.4 ppg to rank third in the Big Ten in scoring offense, but the team's yield of 65.2 ppg ranks it 12th. UM is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range, and nearly 49 percent from the floor overall, and it has forced 100 more turnovers than it has committed, goading the opposition into a whopping 20.1 miscues per outing.