NEW YORK – The main concourse 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 battle 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 (17-4, 8-0) remained undefeated in the Big Ten with a 67-49 win against the Golden Gophers (14-8, 3-6).
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 his physical presence against an athletic Minnesota team provided a strong contrast.
Minnesota used that athleticism and the surprise addition of Amir Coffey to the lineup to withstand an early Ohio State run and build a 20-10 lead. With Bates-Diop on the bench after a slow start, the Buckeyes got things rolling at the midway point of the half starting with a Jae’Sean Tate left-handed hook shot in the paint.
It opened the floodgates. Ohio State would score on its next 10 consecutive possessions, in the process turning a 20-10 deficit into a 34-22 lead. It was a 24-2 run that had a little bit of everything and three Buckeyes doing the scoring.
C.J. Jackson buried three straight three-pointers, the first of which came from beyond the NBA lines on the court. Freshman center Kaleb Wesson followed that stretch with a three of his own, making it a 26-22 lead. Tate had a perfect block-to-block bounce pass to Wesson, one of his five first-half assists, and hit four free throws during the run 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.
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Bates-Diop scored the final four points of the half, and his jumper that came off a block of Coffey, made him the 55th player to reach the 1,000-point scoring mark at Ohio State.
The second half was more of the same, as the Buckeyes eventually built their lead as high as 21 points. At one point, Minnesota went 9:30 without a field goal.
The game was played as 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. Michigan State and Minnesota were to finish the event Saturday night on the ice. Minnesota gave up a home game for the event, something coach Richard Pitino told local media earlier in the week that he wasn’t happy about.