Ohio State basketball nearly undid an incredible deficit against Minnesota, but a tremendous rally ultimately fell short in a 78-68 loss at Minneapolis on Sunday night. In the process, the Buckeyes set a new benchmark in the Thad Matta era, one they certainly were in no hurry to set.
Ohio State (10-6, 0-3 Big Ten) trailed by 18 points at one point in the first half but slowly worked its way back into the game. In the second half, the Buckeyes got to within 5 multiple times, once getting within 3, despite poor free-throw shooting. Minnesota (15-2, 3-1), however, kept finding just enough to stay in front, no matter how hard the Buckeyes charged forward.
Because of its slow start and its inability to finish, Ohio State finds itself with an 0-3 record in conference play for the first time in Matta’s tenure.
Why it happened
Ohio State dug itself a 26-8 hole 10 minutes into the game. No matter what happens the rest of the way, a start like that is almost never an ingredient in a winning formula. The Buckeyes actually cut the deficit to 6 late in the first half but couldn’t finish. Minnesota boosted its lead back up to 11 in time for the break. From there, Ohio State couldn’t chip away enough to get the win. Shooting 11 of 21 from the free-throw line certainly didn’t help matters for the Buckeyes.
What it means for Ohio State
The Buckeyes have some serious questions to answer after another loss. There are times where the team looks good. Ohio State played well for lengthy stretches of this game, especially in portions of the second half. However, the Buckeyes haven’t put together a complete performance in conference play. It doesn’t help that the Buckeyes no longer have the services of Keita Bates-Diop, out for the season with a leg injury. However, injuries are a regular occurrence in college athletics and dealing with them is part of the job.
At this point, no one would suggest the Buckeyes look like an NCAA Tournament team. They have already done serious damage to their prospects of an at-large bid. Forget whether a long winning streak is reasonable to expect at this point — they’re moving into territory of questioning whether it would even help.
Jae’Sean Tate finished with a game-high 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting. (However, he also fouled out with 1:10 left.) Two other Buckeyes — JaQuan Lyle and Trevor Thompson — also scored double figures.
Backup point guard C.J. Jackson didn’t deliver a great game. He scored just 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting. Furthermore, the Buckeyes mostly looked like a disaster when he was on the court. His +/- number, minus-20, was by far the worst among Ohio State players. Nobody else was worse than minus-7.
Who was there
Boat rower extraordinaire P.J. Fleck, Minnesota’s new football coach, attended the game. He even assisted beloved halftime act Red Panda with her show.
"Why'd you get into journalism, Chad?"
To take videos of PJ Fleck throwing bowls to the Red Panda. pic.twitter.com/rH6wV1NOpf
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) January 9, 2017
What’s next for Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ work doesn’t get any easier going forward. Ohio State will travel to Wisconsin to take on the No. 13 Badgers on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN2 will televise the matchup.
FINAL: Minnesota 78, Ohio State 68 pic.twitter.com/1oCV0gD1IF
— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) January 9, 2017