Ohio State men's basketball draws Minnesota rematch in Big Ten tournament

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Minnesota's Isaiah Ihnen (35) blocks a shot-attempt by Ohio State's E.J. Liddell (32) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Minneapolis.

For most of the last four days, Ohio State focused on itself without knowing its first opponent in the Big Ten tournament.

Now, it knows. The fifth-seeded Buckeyes will face No. 13 seed Minnesota on Thursday at approximately 2 p.m. after the Golden Gophers held off No. 12 seed Northwestern, 51-46, in Wednesday’s first game of the tournament.

The game will be the second between the teams this season. Minnesota handed Ohio State a 77-60 loss on January 3, which would prove to be the most lopsided loss of the season for the Buckeyes. Since that game, the Gophers went 3-12 and entered the postseason mired in a seven-game losing streak.

This was their first win since a 71-68 defeat of Purdue on February 11.

Before Ohio State headed to Indianapolis on Wednesday, coach Chris Holtmann said the team had been trying to somewhat prepare for both Northwestern and Minnesota without overwhelming the players.

“We’ll have a long night tonight after the game as coaches as far as finalizing the game plan,” Holtmann said. “We can’t live scout. We’ll be watching as a coaching staff. Our players will have dinner. We’ll meet with our players once maybe twice after that and then meet in the morning.”

In the lone meeting between the teams this season, Liam Robbins power the Gophers to the win with 27 points and 14 rebounds while going 12 for 17 from the free-throw line. He has missed the last five games due to a sprained left ankle. Gabe Kalscheur, too, has missed the last seven games due to a broken finger on his shooting (right) hand. He had 13 points in that first meeting.

After the Northwestern win, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said he wasn't sure of Robbins' status for the Ohio State game.

"I guess we’ll see tomorrow," he said. "Obviously he was terrific that game. That was his best game of the year by far. We’re clearly a better team with him and Gabe in the lineup.

"It won’t be as much about Ohio State, it’ll be about getting some rest. We’ll have to get up really early to test (for COVID-19), which stinks for all of us but we’re all doing it."

However, Marcus Carr, who scored 35 points in a win against Ohio State last season, will definitely play.

"We had a great game against them earlier, but this is a new season now," Carr said after scoring 10 points against Northwestern. "We’re obviously two different teams. We’re going to look and try to do the same things. They’ve been playing well. We’re going to come with our game plan and try to execute."

Duane Washington Jr. led the Buckeyes with 21 points.

“We have tried to focus on ourselves at the same time knowing you try to have a piece of every practice where you’re preparing for the opponent,” Holtmann said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Monday was a little more geared towards us. Most of practice Tuesday was a little more geared towards what we could see particularly in that first game. Today (Wednesday) will be the same thing.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy