Minnesota came into Columbus struggling just as much as the Buckeyes had been recently. Out of sheer necessity, one of these teams had to win. The game started as a whistle-fest (both teams were in the bonus with more than 14 minutes in the first half) with neither team playing particularly fluid.
Ohio State played tough defense during the first half, but looked a little out of synch at times. Defensive switching was sluggish and discombobulated. But things came together during the last six minutes and they played strong team defense, getting good defensive minutes from Shannon Scott.
Thomas struggled all first half until the final couple minutes when he hit a jumper, drawing a foul (leading to a three-point play) and a putback. Finally, Ohio State finished the half with a last second three-pointer by Craft put the Buckeyes up by six.
Thomas started the second half better than the first, hitting a couple open threes early as the Buckeyes built an early nine-point lead.
Ohio State had multiple opportunities in the middle of the second half to open up a sizable lead but couldn’t take advantage of bad offensive sets from Minnesota. Eventually, Ohio State’s defense became too much to handle for Minnesota, who suffered a drought of baskets while Ohio State started to pull away. Ohio State went on a run with a couple buckets from Thomas and was punctuated by a steal and a coast-to-coast slam by Evan Ravenel.
After that, it was all Buckeyes as Minnesota seemed at wits end and wanted nothing to do with the rest of the game. They played with little motivation and got lazy as the Buckeyes’ defense clamped down and swarmed the ball and frustrated the Gophers into mistake after mistake.
With the game out of hand, Amadeo Della Valle came in of the bench and brought everyone to their feet at the end, hitting a couple threes and playing like a man possessed. He’s going to be fun to watch.
This game was definitely what the doctor ordered. The Buckeyes didn’t look great all the way through, but they were able to get their defense straightened out and got some great play from Shannon Scott and Deshaun Thomas. They should be able to go into this Sunday’s game against Michigan State with a little more confidence.