NEW YORK — The main concourse level of Madison Square Garden is lined with memorabilia highlighting the rich history of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Interspersed with plaques and photos of memorable concerts and events are displays of game-worn gear featuring, among many others, legendary big men Patrick Ewing and Willis Reed.
A midseason Big Ten game might not rate as highly, but Kaleb Wesson’s performance Saturday afternoon against Minnesota came in a similar vein. In a meeting of teams playing their third consecutive game away from home, the Ohio State center played the most effective game of his freshman season and the No. 22 Buckeyes remained undefeated in the Big Ten with a 67-49 win against the Golden Gophers.
Wesson finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and added eight rebounds before being lifted from the game with 4:15 to play and the lead at 19 points. He wasn’t the team’s leading scorer — that went to Bates-Diop, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds on 7-of-21 shooting — but Wesson’s physical presence against an athletic Minnesota team provided a vital lift.
“(Friday) night we were talking about how this is the mecca of basketball, so we wanted to come in and just do our thing,” Wesson said. “I was put in good spots to be successful. I work every day with my coaches and work on hooks and everything, so I feel like I was just put in good spots.”
With Bates-Diop on the bench after a slow start, the Buckeyes (17-4, 8-0) got things rolling at the midway point of the first half, starting with Jae’Sean Tate’s left-handed hook shot in the lane that opened the floodgates. Ohio State scored on its next 10 possessions, in the process turning a 20-10 deficit into a 34-22 lead.
C.J. Jackson made three straight three-pointers, the first of which came from beyond the NBA line on the court, and Wesson followed with a three of his own. Tate had a perfect block-to-block bounce pass to Wesson — one of his five assists in the first half — and hit four free throws during the run, which he earned on hard drives to the basket.
The bulk of Jackson’s contributions came despite picking up his second foul with 7:36 remaining in the half. Holtmann stuck with him.
Bates-Diop scored the Buckeyes’ final four points of the half, and his jumper that came off a block made him the 55th player to reach the 1,000-point scoring mark at Ohio State.
A 38-31 halftime lead grew as high as 21 points against a tired Minnesota team playing its third road game in six days. At one point, Minnesota (14-8, 3-6) went 9:30 without a field goal.
“They were not feeling us early (defensively), and give them credit, they made shots and they made plays,” Holtmann said. “I think we as a coaching staff did not feel like we were defending early to start the game at all.”
The game was part of what the Big Ten has called “Super Saturday,” where two league men’s basketball teams play at noon followed by a men’s hockey game at night. The announced attendance was 4,136, and no fans were seated in the upper concourse.
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