If Ohio State fans were told going into the team’s Big Ten tournament opener against Minnesota that the team’s two leading scorers would combine for five field goals and 11 points, that might have been a cause for concern.
But a 77-56 win over Minnesota ought to serve as a reminder that this team’s depth is an asset that can serve them far beyond a win against the Golden Gophers.
“This team is really dangerous,” said Dorka Juhasz, who was held to six points after coming into the game as the team’s leading scorer on the season. “You never know on what day who’s going to show up.”
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A glance at the Buckeyes box score shows that everyone contributed, whether or not they did their usual damage in the scoring column. Aaliyah Patty scored 15 and had eight rebounds. Jacy Sheldon had 15. Janai Crooms had 14. Braxtin Miller had 13. Juhasz grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked four shots.
Crooms came two points away from matching her season-high.
“We're at our best when we have balance in our scoring,” Buckeyes coach Kevin McGuff said. “I thought Janai in particular was great off the bench. I thought that was a really great performance by her, so we need more of that tomorrow
Kierstan Bell came into the game averaging 11.1 points and only scored five. But when everyone else is clicking, she can afford to have an off-night.
“We know everybody on the team can score,” Bell said. “We just share the ball, execute and play Ohio State basketball.”
The Buckeyes led Minnesota 23-11 after the first quarter, shooting 53% from the floor. But they struggled in the second quarter, shooting 33%. The Golden Gophers trimmed the deficit to six points heading into halftime, and played even with the Buckeyes in the third quarter. The lead was trimmed to four to start the fourth...and then Ohio State ran away.
Sheldon hit a layup. Crooms hit a jumper. Bell made a bucket. Crooms turned a turnover into points. Patty made a jumper. Sheldon hit a 3-pointer.
And that’s how you go on a 14-0 run to put a game out of reach.
A crucial aspect of the team’s run was its defense, which forced three turnovers that turned into six points. For the game, Ohio State scored 26 points off 22 Minnesota miscues. The Buckeyes scored 20 fastbreak points.
“We’re really great in transition, so for us to have good defensive possessions and get in the passing lanes and apply a lot of pressure so they might not be getting the best shots they want and put us into fast transition, it really works well for us,” Miller said. “When our offense isn’t really working out, it’s crucial for us to get transition buckets, which is probably our best asset.”
By no means did Ohio State play a perfect game. The Buckeyes turned the ball over 11 times and struggled at times to hit shots, especially from behind the arc. But the end result was a win in the short-term and the long-term.
“Anybody can step up at any moment,” Miller said. “I think that makes us a threat.”
Ohio State 77, Minnesota 56
MINN: T.Bello 1-5 2-5 4, Powell 4-14 3-6 14, Scalia 4-11 0-1 9, Brunson 4-11 0-0 11, Hubbard 3-11 2-2 10, Andashchyk 2-5 0-0 4, Sconiers 1-4 0-0 2, K.Bello 1-1 0-0 2, Tomancova 0. Totals 20-62 7-14 56.
OSU: Juhasz 3-11 0-1 6, Patty 6-11 3-5 15, Greene 4-9 0-0 9, Sheldon 6-13 1-3 15, Miller 4-12 4-5 13, Bell 2-9 0-0 5, Crooms 6-7 1-1 14. Totals 31-72 9-15 77.
Minnesota 11 22 15 8—56
Ohio State 23 16 15 23—77
Three-point goals: Minnesota 9-25 (Powell 3-5, Brunson 3-7, Hubbard 2-6, Scalia 1-5, Andashchyk 0-2); Ohio State 6-27 (Sheldon 2-6, Greene 1-3, Crooms 1-2, Miller 1-4, Bell 1-7, Juhasz 0-4, Patty 0-1). Rebounds: Minnesota 45 (T.Bello 10), Ohio State 45 (Juhasz 16). Assists: Minnesota 14 (T.Bello and Brunson 3), Ohio State 17 (Miller 5). Turnovers: Minnesota 22, Ohio State 11.