Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann was as curious as anyone to see how the Buckeyes would respond to their first true taste of adversity.
After losing their first game of the season Wednesday night against Syracuse and in the process losing the services of key freshman guard Luther Muhammad to a dislocated shoulder, a lengthy, athletic Minnesota team figured to provide a barometer.
If it was a test, consider it passed. Five players scored in double figures, led by Andre Wesson’s career-high 16 points, and the No. 16 Buckeyes opened Big Ten play with a 79-59 drubbing of Minnesota at Value City Arena.
Graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods replaced Muhammad, who watched the game from the bench without a sling, in the starting lineup. The starting lineup of C.J. Jackson, Andre and Kaleb Wesson, Kyle Young and Woods entered the night having only made one appearance all season, and that was a 58-second stint against Syracuse when it allowed two points and did not score.
Against a Minnesota team that played at home against Oklahoma State on Friday night, it didn’t matter much. The Buckeyes (7-1, 1-0) took control early, getting contributions across the board during a significant run. Ahead 13-7, Musa Jallow started it with a deep jumper. After a media timeout, Young scored on a backdoor cut to start a streak of five straight possessions with Ohio State field goals capped by an Andre Wesson basket from the left baseline that made it a 13-0 run.
Everyone played a part. Duane Washington Jr. scored on a left-handed scoop shot. Jallow had a three and a dunk. And everyone played defense, as the Golden Gophers (6-2, 0-1) missed two shots, lost two possessions when Young took a charge and forced a jump ball on a Daniel Oturu dunk attempt, and committed two other turnovers.
Minnesota would rally late in the half, though, and put together a 9-0 run after trailing 36-19 with less than three minutes to play. Andre Wesson answered it with a three-point play with 27.7 seconds left, setting the halftime score at 39-28.
Wesson's younger brother removed any suspense early in the second half. After picking up two early first-half fouls and having scored just one point before halftime, Kaleb Wesson scored seven straight points to open the second half and nine of Ohio State’s first 11 to push the lead to 50-33. He started it on the block, where he powered through a pair of Oturu fouls for field goals, and finished it along the baseline, where he swished a deep jumper.
The Gophers had no answers. Jordan Murphy, who is one double-double shy of the school record, was a non-factor with seven points and seven rebounds, and Minnesota missed all 12 of its three-point attempts to become the first Ohio State opponent to do so since Lamar was 0 for 12 on Dec. 20, 2011.
After having started his coaching career 0-6 in conference openers, Holtmann has won his first two with the Buckeyes.