The Chris Holtmann era at Ohio State continues its electric start, as the 22nd-ranked Buckeyes now find themselves at 16-4 on the season. At 7-0 in conference play, Holtmann is the first coach in 95 years to win their first seven Big Ten games. The Scarlet and Gray will look to keep the train moving as they head to Madison Square Garden to take on Minnesota on Saturday at noon.
The turnaround Ohio State has seen under Holtmann has been nothing short of spectacular. Their seven conference wins already tied their total from a season ago, when the team went 7-11 in the Big Ten. Their 16 overall wins is just one shy of the 17 games they won a year ago, with 11 games still remaining on this year’s schedule. Since the start of December, the Buckeyes are 11-1, the lone loss coming to North Carolina at a neutral site.
Ohio State is coming off a tough-fought 71-65 win over Northwestern. While at times it seemed as though the Buckeyes were about to pull away and run off with it, the Wildcats kept fighting and really put pressure on OSU by utilizing traps and a zone defense. With Northwestern in a zone, Ohio State was not able to run plays for Keita Bates-Diop. This resulted in the Big Ten’s leading scorer to finish with just 10 points, his second-lowest total of the season. The Buckeyes were able to play solid team basketball to get the win, with four different players finishing in double figures, including Micah Potter‘s team-high 13 points on five-of-five shooting.
Minnesota currently sits at 14-7, with a 3-5 record in conference. The Golden Gophers started the season off hot, featuring a 13-3 record at the beginning of January. 2018 has not been kind to the Gophers, however, as Minnesota has lost four of their last five games. In their last game, Minnesota fell 77-66 to Maryland after trailing by just one going into the half. The Gophers really put themselves in a hole early in the second half, hitting just three shots in the opening 10 minutes of the period. They would finish the game shooting 36 percent as a team.
Many of the Gophers struggles have been a direct result of playing without two of their best players, Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch. Coffey, a sophomore guard averaging 14 points this season, has missed the team’s last five games with a shoulder injury. Lynch, the 6-foot-10 senior center averaging 10 points and eight boards, has been suspended since the beginning of January after accusations of sexual misconduct. Without these two guys, the team has really relied on Jordan Murphy. The junior forward has been especially impressive, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds this year.
Between injuries and suspensions, this road trip has been the last thing this Minnesota squad needs right now. Both teams are coming into the game on opposite ends of the spectrum, the Buckeyes riding high on remaining undefeated in the Big Ten and the Gophers reeling in the midst of a slump. The close call with Northwestern could have been a very good thing for Ohio State, as they have learned not to look past any inferior opponents. Murphy will try his best, but without Coffey and Lynch the Gophers will be no match for the Scarlet and Gray.