For the first time this season, Ohio State will be playing a team it’s already faced. The Buckeyes (12-8, 2-5 Big Ten) welcome Minnesota to town Wednesday evening.
These two schools first met Jan. 8 when the Golden Gophers (15-5, 3-4) defeated Ohio State, 78-68, in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half of that game, while starting the contest 2 of 13 from the field and committing seven turnovers in the first 13:00 as well.
“We’ve got to play a better first 20 minutes than we did up there,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said Tuesday. “That was bad basketball in terms of how we handled the basketball and how we didn’t execute. Second half, we did a really, really good job.”
Ohio State eventually cut it to three in the second frame of that first meeting with Minnesota, but missed 5 of 8 field goals in the final four minutes of the contest after making it a one-possession game.
“I just feel like with the last game, we just didn’t get enough stops that we needed at the crucial parts of the second half,” OSU junior guard Kam Williams said Tuesday. “I feel like if we would have gotten a big-time stop and a score and then just keep repeating, we would’ve came out on top.”
OSU freshman center Micah Potter is looking forward to the rematch with the Gophers.
“I’m excited. I know that there’s definitely things we could have fixed last game to win,” Potter said Tuesday. “There’s definitely things going forward that we can make adjustments in order to win.”
Some of those adjustments may pertain to the defensive side of things.
“I think from game one, we made some mistakes defensively and they really, really made us pay,” Matta said. “If we’re supposed to go over a screen, go over the screen. We didn’t do it, we went under and they banged shots on us. So that’s the primary focus of our system in terms of doing what you’re supposed to do.”
Oddly enough, Minnesota has not won a game since its victory over Ohio State a few weeks ago. The Golden Gophers lost at Michigan State (65-47), at Penn State (52-50) and vs. Wisconsin (78-76) in overtime at home. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, have gone 2-2 since that first encounter with the Gophers and are now 13th in the conference standings, with Rutgers (12-9, 1-7) occupying the bottom spot in the league.
“We need a win,” Potter said. “Our backs are against the wall and the only way to go is forward. So hopefully we can make that step.”
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