Ohio State men’s basketball traveled to Penn State Saturday and was dismantled 90-76 by a Nittany Lion team it shot down 106-74 on Dec. 7.
Thursday, it’s the Buckeyes (12-6, 2-5 Big Ten) gunning for a script flip of their own at home against Minnesota (10-8, 4-4) and a reprieve from its five losses in six games.
“I knew we were gonna hit a wall at some point,” Ohio State freshman guard D.J. Carton said. “The whole overall team chemistry needs to become better. We need to be more connected on the floor, and we need to bring more of a passion to this game, and I think that’s what we miss.”
Ohio State managed to snap a four-game losing streak against Nebraska Jan. 14, only to drop the contest against Penn State four days later.
While offensive issues were the Buckeyes’ locusts during the streak, defensive lapses plagued them against Penn State.
The Buckeyes scored 76, which didn’t fall short of 60 points as in every defeat during the skid, but they allowed 90 against the Nittany Lions — the most they’ve surrendered since March 17, 2018, to end head coach Chris Holtmann’s first season.
Holtmann said the lack of passion Carton mentioned comes from players searching for reasons they’re losing. He had different reasons for the team’s victory famine.
“There’s a couple issues that we’ve looked at, one being just our overall lack of toughness,” Holtmann said. “We just have to play tougher, be tougher, as a group.”
The Golden Gophers handed the Buckeyes their first defeat of the season Dec. 15 in Minneapolis.
Sophomore guard Duane Washington was out with injury at the time, and in his stead, the guards combined to shoot just 34 percent with six assists and six turnovers.
“The only way I think you get tougher is you do tough things on a regular basis,” Holtmann said. “Some groups are different. Some groups are older. Some groups you just naturally have some tougher-minded guys. I think that’s still a question that we have to answer.”
Holtmann said this past week that the depth of forwards in the Big Ten is the best he’s ever seen in any conference as a coach, and that trend will announce itself Thursday.
Six-foot-10 Minnesota sophomore center Daniel Oturu will make his journey to the Schottenstein Center, replete with 20.2 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game — second, first and second in the Big Ten, respectively.
Redshirt sophomore guard Marcus Carr leads the Golden Gophers in the backcourt, No. 2 on the team with 16.1 points per game.
Ohio State helped that average in the previous meeting, when Carr piled up 35 points –– including 28 in the second half.
“Obviously another really good team coming in here. We know that from playing them up there,” Holtmann said. “Really good players. Richard [Pitino] and his staff have that group playing really, really well. Really hard.”
Should the Buckeyes slow Carr, Oturu and the Gophers enough for a win, they could start to string a few together.
They travel to 6-12 Northwestern Sunday, followed by a home game against Indiana.
“I never look that far into the schedule or assume anything,” Holtmann said. “The league’s too good.”
First Ohio State will tip off against Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, hoping to avoid a sixth loss in seven games.