Ohio St.-Minnesota Preview
Ohio State is one of the better offensive teams in the country, but coach Thad Matta’s squad is talking about the possibility of changing its defensive scheme.
The 22nd-ranked Buckeyes could put it to the test as they look to end Minnesota’s 14-game home winning streak Tuesday night.
Ohio State (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) leads the conference and ranks fourth nationally in field-goal percentage at 52.3, and it hit 60.0 percent from the floor in Saturday’s 77-61 win over Illinois.
The solid performance came after the Buckeyes shot 42.1 percent in a 71-65 home loss to Iowa last Tuesday in their conference opener. D’Angelo Russell scored 22 points against the Fighting Illini while Marc Loving and Sam Thompson added 13 apiece.
Loving hit 2 of 3 from 3-point range and leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 55.6 percent.
"I thought all the guys did a really nice job and were great down the stretch for us," Matta said. "I think our activity was great and we were able to get out and get deflections. We got the ball out in transition (and) we were able to execute offensively."
The story, though, was Matta switching from a zone defense to a man-to-man set that the Buckeyes rarely implement after Illinois had success shooting from distance.
Matta hinted that Ohio State could stick with playing man-to-man, but he also doesn’t plan to go away from the zone completely.
"He’s won a lot more games than we have, so whatever he says goes," Thompson said. "We haven’t really gone over our man-to-man defense the way we have in past years, but every day in practice we guard man-to-man in our five-man set we practice in. We were able to pressure a little bit more in man. You have to be really disciplined in zone, which we need to do a little bit better."
Ohio State is holding opponents to 38.3 percent shooting, though it could be tested no matter its defensive set against a Minnesota team that ranks fourth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at 48.4.
"Every time you go out on the road, it’s a battle," Thompson said.
That’s especially been the case lately for teams that visit the Golden Gophers (11-4, 0-2), who haven’t lost at home since falling to Illinois on Feb. 19. They ended a six-game losing streak to the Buckeyes with a 63-53 home win Jan. 16 before losing the most recent matchup 64-46 on Feb. 22.
Minnesota headed into Big Ten play averaging 87.1 points during an eight-game winning streak, but it shot 38.1 percent while dropping its first two conference games, 72-68 at Purdue on Wednesday and Saturday’s 70-58 defeat at then-No. 12 Maryland.
The Gophers shot 3 of 22 from 3-point range against Maryland, including Carlos Morris’ 2-for-10 effort. He shot 7 of 21 overall and finished with 18 points, while Maurice Walker had 20 and 10 rebounds.
”We knew these first two games would be very difficult,” coach Richard Pitino said. ”We’re excited to go back home. We need to go home and get some confidence back.”
The Gophers know it likely won’t get any easier against the Buckeyes, who had won back-to-back games in Minnesota before the last meeting there.
”We want to defend our home court," Walker said. "That was one of our goals at the start of the season."