The No. 24/23 Ohio State men's basketball team took to the road with hopes of improving to 2-0 in Big Ten play with a game against No. 21 Minnesota, but a complete performance put forth by the Golden Gophers led to a 68-59 victory for the home team.
The Buckeyes (10-2, 1-1 Big Ten) held a first-half lead but could not withstand a Minnesota team that looked quicker, smarter and faster.
"I think we had a lot of guys out there that just played their first Big Ten road game," OSU assistant coach Archie Miller told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. "We have a lot of guys that haven't quite been there yet."
With Minnesota guard Al Nolen on the bench with two fouls, the Buckeyes put together a 7-0 run capped by a Diebler three-pointer to take a 22-15 lead with 6:52 left in the first half. But beginning with a fast-break bucket by Minnesota's Devoe Joseph, the home team managed to come back in a big way.
A 19-2 run to close the first half gave the Gophers a 34-24 advantage at the break. Switching to a zone defense, Minnesota held the Buckeyes to just the Diebler trey from the floor in the final 14:12 of the half. During that span, the Buckeyes went 1 for 17 from the floor, committed two turnovers, were whistled for two offensive fouls and made six free throws.
From there, Minnesota's lead would stretch to as many at 18 points in the second half en route to the win.
"They went zone (and) some of the rhythm shots and some of the things we were getting were closed off," Miller said. "We didn't do a great job hanging in there and being real smart."
The Gophers (13-1, 1-1) were able to impose their will on both ends of the court. Minnesota had 16 assists on 25 baskets in the game compared to eight assists on 18 field goals for the Buckeyes and frequently found itself with open looks close to the basket. OSU had 14 turnovers in the contest.
Now in his second game without freshman point guard Anthony Crater, who quit the team following a Dec. 27 loss to West Virginia, Matta used reserve P.J. Hill liberally in relief of starter Jeremie Simmons.
Neither was particularly effective, however. Each had three points, two assists and two turnovers. Simmons saw 21 minutes of action; Hill 19.
The struggles in the backcourt were matched by those in the frontcourt by the Buckeyes, who got five points from freshman reserve center B.J. Mullens, four from the charity stripe from reserve Kyle Madsen and two from starter Dallas Lauderdale.
Diebler hit back-to-back treys to open the second half, and Simmons added his lone tally to pull the Buckeyes within three points at 36-33. Minnesota answered with an 11-0 run, and OSU never seriously threatened again.
The Buckeyes did stage a late 10-0 run that made it 60-52 Minnesota, and Miller cited that stretch of play as one that was encouraging for the coaching staff.
"The last six minutes of the game guys really manned up, made plays and got stops," Miller said." That's a good thing, but we have to take the last eight minutes and build more consistency."
The road does not get any easier for the Buckeyes, who will face No. 10/15 Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday night.
"The Big Ten's obviously probably the most difficult league in college basketball," Miller said. "When you go on the road every game is going to be an intense game. Holding home court is a big thing in the Big Ten. We've got to get back to work."