Ohio State came into its Big Ten opener against Minnesota a man down. In Wednesday’s 72-62 loss to Syracuse, freshman guard Luther Muhammad suffered a shoulder dislocation, an injury head coach Chris Holtmann said that had no timetable for recovery.
Muhammad was viewed by his teammates and the coaching staff as an emotional leader, setting the tone for the Ohio State defense, something Holtmann called for in other members of the roster.
In Sunday’s game against Minnesota, senior guard C.J. Jackson answered the call on the first play, recording a steal on the Golden Gophers’ first offensive possession, leading to a layup by sophomore forward Kyle Young.
With the help of the Buckeyes’ dominance on the glass, out-rebounding the Golden Gophers 42-33, No. 16 Ohio State got its first Big Ten win of the season, defeating Minnesota 79-59 on Sunday.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann thought his team’s performance on Sunday was a good rebound from the loss to the Orange on Wednesday.
“I think obviously guys were disappointed,” Holtmann said. “I think our guys understood what’s in front of them. And as much as we can, we were trying to preach ‘learn from every circumstance. Good and bad.’”
Holding an 11-point halftime lead, Ohio State secured its win with a 7-0 run in the middle of the second half, bringing the Buckeyes a 57-37 lead against the Golden Gophers, their largest of the game and a lead that would remain the rest of the game
But the defense remained for the Buckeyes as well, allowing the Golden Gophers to shoot 39.2 percent from the field, failing to make a 3 on 13 attempts from deep.
After allowing Syracuse to make 11 of 24 attempts from deep in Wednesday’s loss, sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson said one of the main focuses heading into the first Big Ten game of the season was to not let that happen again.
“It’s just something that we emphasized really this whole week,” Wesson said. “Especially with the amount of 3’s Syracuse hit and the big shots they had to kind of get them rolling. We went into the game knowing that they had some shooters that were capable of doing that, so it was an emphasis all week.”
After playing only five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, Wesson came out with a vengeance in the second half, scoring nine of Ohio State’s first 11 points, making four of five attempts from the field. He finished the game with 15 points, making five of 10 from the field.
Offense was difficult to come by at the start of the first half. Ohio State and Minnesota combined to make only three of their first 12 shot attempts, giving Ohio State the measly 5-4 lead with five minutes gone in the game.
But junior Andre Wesson changed the tides, hitting a 3 and beginning a 21-2 run for Ohio State lasting for the next five minutes. In that span, sophomore guard Musa Jallow scored nine of 11 first half points, giving the Buckeyes a 26-7 lead.
Wesson and Jallow scored 17 of the 21 total points during the run, helping give Ohio State a lead it would not lose for the remainder of the game.
“I was just ready to play and guys set me up to be successful,” Jallow said. “I just took the opportunity.”
Andre Wesson recorded a career-high 16 points, shooting 60 percent from the field and making two of five from 3-point range.
In the first half, despite leading rebounder Kaleb Wesson recording two fouls in the first four minutes, Ohio State stepped up on the boards, out-rebounding the Golden Gophers 22-14 and recording eight offensive rebounds.
With Kaleb Wesson recording six boards, Young led Ohio State with eight rebounds, recording a team-leading four offensive rebounds.
“I thought our guys were trying to do what we were trying to preach to them. Guys that can keep balls alive, and this is a really good Minnesota rebounding team,” Holtmann said. “But it was good to see. Guys kept balls alive. We had a couple of tip outs that were really important tonight. It set the tone with our aggressiveness.”
Holding on to a 36-19 lead with 2:59 to go in the half, Minnesota went on an offensive run, recording nine straight points with senior guard Dupree McBrayer scoring five points to lessen its deficit to eight, a deficit that would only increase slightly heading into halftime after a 3-point play by Andre Wesson.
The Buckeyes came back to their offensive success in the second half, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor, the same as in the first half, and outscoring the Golden Gophers 40-31 for Ohio State’s seventh win in its first eight games of the season.
No. 16 Ohio State will next travel to Chicago to take on Illinois at 7 p.m on Wednesday.
Updated at 12:27 a.m. with quotes from Chris Holtmann, Musa Jallow and Kaleb Wesson.