Buckeyes Face Critical Home Game With Gophers

Ohio State, led by Tony Stockman, will look to snap a three-game losing streak when it hosts Minnesota, also 0-2 in Big Ten play, at 12:07 p.m. Saturday (ESPN-Plus regional syndication). Click this free link for a preview of the game.

The bad news is that Ohio State and Minnesota, which will meet at 12:07 p.m. Saturday (ESPN-Plus Regional Syndication) at Value City Arena, are the Big Ten's remaining winless teams in conference play.

The good news is that both teams are still just 1-½ games behind the five teams tied for first in the conference at 2-1.

The Buckeyes (8-7, 0-2) will try to break a three-game losing streak when they host the Gophers (8-6, 0-2). Naturally, neither side wants to consider the possibility of a loss.

"The loser is going to be 0-3 (in the conference)," OSU coach Jim O‘Brien said. "If we want to keep pace, we need to start winning some games pretty soon, especially the games at home. For those reasons, it is very important for both of us. If we can just win one game in the conference right now, we‘re still in the thick of it. It‘s wide open.

"I hesitate to put too much pressure on our guys right now. At the same time, I want them to understand there is pressure to win a game. There is a sense of urgency. But they've been hearing that from me all year long."

OSU guard Tony Stockman was asked if it feels like the season is slipping away.

"I think it is a little bit, but it's not all the way gone," Stockman said. "There is a time when you come to the conference season and you call it the second season. Everybody has a loss in the league, so we're not all the way out of it yet. But we know if we don't do it soon, we know it's going to be over.

"We want to get a win in the conference. We're going to try and come together so we can get one."

The Buckeyes have had six days to stew over last Saturday's 64-47 loss at Penn State.

"It has been a long week," Stockman said. "Any time you lose and you have a week off, it's going to be longer. You want to get out there and try and get a win and feel comfortable with yourself. But this let us focus in on what we need to focus in on, playing better defense and trying to jell as a team and come together."

O'Brien believes the week off has been productive for his team.

"When you lose a game and you have to wait a week, you still have a bad taste in your mouth, and that's been the case with me," the coach said. "I suspect it's been gnawing on our guys. The good thing is we've had some good practices this week. We've had some hard practices and hopefully it will carry over to something positive."

OSU has struggled offensively in its recent losses to Texas Tech, Illinois and Penn State.

"I think a lot of it has been shooting," O‘Brien said when asked about what has plagued his team. "I think in these last three games, we're 35 percent from the floor, 23 from threes and like 57 percent at the foul line. When you add some turnovers in on that, there's no points. Regardless of how you do defensively, you need to score some more points.

"I think that was true in our last game. When I look at the tape and I look at their offensive opportunities versus ours, I would take ours again if we played them again. The thing they did was they got to the foul line. We fouled them too much. They also beat the shot clock a few times and made some shots under duress. Give them credit for that.

"When we get opportunities and start getting some looks, we have to start putting them in."

Even coming home may not be the right tonic for OSU, which shot 32.9 percent (26 of 79) in its last home appearance, an 80-72 loss to Texas Tech.

"The last time we played here, we got a lot of shots against Texas Tech but we didn't shoot well," O‘Brien said. "I think we're due for a good offensive game. Hopefully, we'll have it tomorrow."

O'Brien said he would like to see his team rely more on center Velimir Radinovic, who is averaging 9.5 points per game on 67.6 percent shooting from the floor.

"Velimir has been the most consistent player we have," O‘Brien said. "He's shooting over 65 percent and the second guy is like 45 percent. I know I am not the brightest guy, but it doesn't take a whole lot to figure out he has got to get some more shots. It has to start with Velimir. He's got to be a guy we continue to go to."

Radinovic seems a lock to start for the 15th time in 16 games. As for the other starters tomorrow, O'Brien said, "I don't know."

Scouting Minnesota

Minnesota opened Big Ten play at Penn State Jan. 7 and fell to the Nittany Lions 75-72. The Golden Gophers entered Big Ten play with a 7-4 non-conference make before defeating Princeton last Saturday. Minnesota fell to Iowa 83-68 Tuesday in Iowa City.

Golden Gopher freshman Kris Humphries, a 6-9 forward who originally signed with Duke, is the leading scorer and rebounder in the Big Ten. He averages a double-double with 22.8 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. Humphries connects on 50 percent of his field goals (117 of 235) and on nearly 78 percent of his foul shots (79 of 102).

"He's not like your typical freshman," O‘Brien said. "He's got the body of a mature NBA player. Combine that with skill and hunger to score points, he's got all of those things that make him a tough match-up. He has the ability to go in and out. He's a match-up nightmare. If you guard him with a big man, he goes away and he can go by them off the dribble. If you guard him with a small guy, he just overpowers them close to the basket. He's a tough match-up, I would think, for most teams."

Stockman added, "Humphries is a pretty good guy. He shoots well and plays pretty good. They run sets and they run their sets pretty well. We have to concentrate on defense and rebounding."

Guards Maurice Hargrow (12.4 ppg.) and Ben Johnson (11.6 ppg.) join Humphries in double figures offensively for the Golden Gophers.

"They have the potential to be a good team," O‘Brien said. "They have a lot of firepower and they can score a lot of points. Everybody thought they were going to be a good team, people thought we were going to be a good team. I still think there's time for us and I think there's time for them. They're just going through a funk like we are."

Dan Monson is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Golden Gophers. He has an overall record of 75-63 in Minnesota and a mark of 127-80 in seven seasons as a collegiate head coach. He spent two seasons at Gonzaga before taking over in Minneapolis.

Also Notable

* OSU has won six of the last seven meetings with Minnesota, including four straight in Columbus. OSU won the teams' only meeting last year 73-68 in Columbus.

* Ohio State has a record of 18-6 (.750) under Jim O'Brien when there is a week or more between games over the last seven seasons. The Buckeyes had a streak of 11-consecutive wins snapped with a loss to Georgia Tech earlier this year (73-53, Dec. 3). Ohio State is 1-1 this season heading into the game vs. Minnesota after a week off between contests. O'Brien is 6-3 against Big Ten teams when there is a week to prepare and 6-1 since his first season at Ohio State in 1997-98. The last loss to a league opponent following an extended break was an 80-77 loss at Illinois in the Big Ten opener Jan. 6, 2000.

* Radinovic leads the Big Ten in field goal shooting percentage, knocking down 67.6 percent of his shots (50 of 74). He made 6-of-9 shots against Penn State and both attempts at Illinois. He has made 55 percent of his shots for his career (206 of 371) in 96 games.

* Stockman leads Ohio State with an average of 13.1 points a game. He has connected on 85 percent of his foul shots (23 of 27). With a total of 29 steals, Stockman is among Big Ten leaders (4th) with an average of 1.93 thefts a game. Sophomore J.J. Sullinger averages 10.1 points a game, second on the team.

* Sophomore center/forward Terence Dials, who missed the majority of 2002-03 with a back injury, is the team's leading rebounder and fourth leading scorer. He is averaging 8.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, including a career-high 14-rebound effort in Ohio State's 77-71 win over Central Michigan at the Maui Invitational.

* Here is a link to the Buckeye Hoops forum, where we have the line and TV clearances posted for this game.

Click here for the line and TV clearances for OSU-Minnesota.

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