No. 3 Ohio State will be without a key player at Minnesota on Sunday as sophomore Duane Washington Jr. will sit out with a rib injury.

Ohio State will be without one of its primary contributors as it continues Big Ten play this evening in Minnesota.

Duane Washington Jr., the team's second-leading scorer at 11.4 points per game, will not play against the Golden Gophers due to a rib injury. He has not practiced since the Buckeyes improved to 9-0 on Dec. 7 with a 106-74 win against Penn State, a game in which he scored 14 points and was one of three Ohio State players to hit four three-pointers.

Friday, Washington spoke with reporters to preview the game against the Golden Gophers and described the injury as a “little muscle spasm in my back.” He was not active when Ohio State held a brief open practice session Wednesday, according to photos and videos from the event.

“It just happened a couple days ago,” Washington said Friday when asked a follow-up about whether he had previously suffered from back spasms. “Just getting treatment on it. (The plan is) good practice today and good practice tomorrow.”

It's unclear how Washington suffered the injury. He underwent an MRI on Friday night and is not expected to miss significant time. Ohio State will have a quick turnaround and host Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday night at Value City Arena.

A sophomore, Washington has played a significant role in Ohio State's ascension to the No. 3 national ranking and an unbeaten start. After starting two games as a freshman and averaging 7.0 points in 17.2 minutes per game, he slid into the starting lineup for the second game of this season when senior wing Andre Wesson went out with a fractured right eye socket and has remained there as Wesson has returned to health.

He had 14 points in a 76-51 win against No. 10 Villanova in the third game of the season and scored 16 in a hard-fought win against Kent State three games later. Last week, in a road win against No. 7 North Carolina, he had a season-high 18 points, two shy of his career high, before adding 16 against the Nittany Lions. His offensive rating of 129.5 is No. 48 nationally according to KenPom.com.

Washington's absence will force the Buckeyes to play more traditional lineups rather than the three-guard ones coach Chris Holtmann has been using with greater frequency – and success – this season.

“Duane's obviously been in a good rhythm here starting, playing with confidence offensively,” Holtmann said Friday. “He needs to get better defensively, but he's been good offensively.”

In his absence, Wesson is the most likely candidate to replace him in the starting lineup. Holtmann has liked having Wesson come into the game alongside freshmen D.J. Carton and E.J. Liddell.

“We really love Andre's versatility to be able to really sub in for either the perimeter spot and the forward spot and his leadership with some of the freshmen we have coming off the bench as well,” Holtmann said. “That's been vital for us.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy