Analysis: Ohio State substitutions at a season-high in Minnesota loss

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's Justice Sueing, left, gets off a pass despite a collision with Minnesota's Liam Robbins in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Ohio State fell out of the nation’s top 25 following Sunday’s 77-60 loss at Minnesota. In search of combinations that worked, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann substituted more liberally than at any other point this season.

Foul troubles, injuries and an uneven week of practice all contributed. 

More:Quietly, CJ Walker battles thumb injury as Ohio State continues Big Ten play

Here’s how it all unfolded.

*The Buckeyes went with the same starters for a fifth straight game: CJ Walker and Duane Washington Jr. as the guards, Justice Sueing and E.J. Liddell as forwards and Kyle Young at center. That group had played only seven minutes, scoring six points and allowing six, in the previous game’s blowout win against Nebraska. This lineup entered the game having played 27:47 in Big Ten play, scoring 43 points and allowing 37. Overall, it was plus-51 (166 points scored, 115 allowed) in 84:37 for the entire season.

*The starters lasted for 3:20 before Holtmann called timeout and replaced Sueing and Washington with Justin Ahrens and Musa Jallow with Minnesota ahead 14-5. Twenty-seven seconds later, Zed Key replaced Liddell, but Jallow’s stay in the lineup wouldn’t be long. At 15:38, with the Minnesota lead now at 16-5, Jallow and Walker checked out for Gene Brown III and Washington.

*This put a lineup of Ahrens, Brown, Key, Washington and Young on the floor that had outscored Nebraska 14-5 in 5:54 in what had been its first game of the season. In the next 70 seconds, it put together a 5-0 burst before Liddell returned to give Young a break with 14:28 left and the Minnesota lead cut to 16-10.

*For the next 1:12, it pulled two points closer with a 3-1 edge to make it a 17-13 Minnesota lead before Sueing replaced Brown with 13:16 left in the half. That lineup with Brown hadn’t seen playing time since the third game of the season, which came against Morehead State.

More:BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast | Reviewing the Minnesota and Nebraska games and looking ahead

*This lineup debut lasted for 1:01 and a Washington jumper pulled Ohio State within 17-15 before Young replaced Key and Walker replaced Washington with 12:15 left. That lineup would also play roughly a minute, lasting for 1:12 before Washington replaced Ahrens. That ended a stretch of 2:13 of Ahrens essentially playing at shooting guard during which the Buckeyes outscored the Golden Gophers 4-3.

*So with 11:03 to play in the first half and Minnesota ahead 20-17, Holtmann went back to his starters after having used Ahrens, Brown, Jallow and Key off his bench. But the lineup would last for only 44 seconds before Key replaced Liddell with 10:19 left and the score the same.

*Key, Sueing, Walker, Washington and Young tied the game at 21 had a 4-3 run in 1:46 to make it a 23-21 Minnesota lead before Liddell returned in place of Key. But 15 seconds later, Brown checked in for Sueing with Minnesota ahead 25-21.

*It would be the first lineup to see any first-half traction. The starters, save for Brown in place of Sueing, played from 8:20-5:35, briefly took a lead and outscored Minnesota 7-5 before Ahrens replaced Walker. This was also where Holtmann was given a technical foul, points that I’ve executively decided not to charge to any of the lineup combinations.

*This lineup of Ahrens, Brown, Liddell, Washington and Young had outscored Nebraska 5-0 but was outscored 3-2 in the next 1:01.

*With 4:34 left in the half and Minnesota ahead 34-30, the Buckeyes debuted a lineup of Ahrens, Liddell, Sueing, Towns and Washington. It lasted 30 seconds, scored two points and allowed two.

*The Buckeyes would stick with a lineup of Ahrens, Brown, Liddell, Walker and Young for the final three minutes of the first half and were outscored 5-4 as Minnesota took a 43-37 halftime lead.

*It was back to the starters, who were outscored 16-5 during 4:19 during the first half, to open the second half. They were outscored 5-2 in the first 3:29 before Ahrens and Towns replaced Washington and Young and Minnesota now ahead 48-39.

*Minnesota incrementally increased its lead as the Buckeyes used six different lineup combinations during the first eight minutes. With exactly 12 minutes to play, the Buckeyes went with a lineup of four starters and Ahrens in place of Sueing with the Gophers ahead 56-45. This would be the first lineup to get any significant second-half traction for Ohio State, but in the next 2:16 it was outscored 8-5 as Minnesota pushed its lead to 14 points.

*Aside from the starters to open the half, the only lineup to play more than 2:16 during the second half for Ohio State was the mop-up lineup of Ahrens, Brown, Jallow, Liddell and Sotos, which played the final 2:53 of the game.

*In all, Holtmann made lineup changes 29 times during the game. That amounts to an average shift of 82.8 seconds.

*Ohio State’s starting lineup was outscored 21-7 in 7:48.

*With Walker battling a thumb injury, Ahrens took some minutes at the shooting guard position. He was in four lineups with Walker as the point guard and four with Washington. With Walker, he played for 4:10 on lineups that scored six points and allowed six, and with Washington it was 4:26, seven points scored and seven allowed. In all, that’s 8:36 of playing time as a guard with 13 points scored and allowed.

*The Buckeyes used a season-high 27 different lineups in the game. They also used a season-high 16 new lineups.

*Some of this was certainly foul-related. Young and Key each finished with four fouls and Liddell had three as the Buckeyes tried to slow down Liam Robbins.