Ohio State races out to lead, hangs on for Big Ten tournament win against Minnesota
INDIANAPOLIS – From the second he walks into a gym, Duane Washington Jr. always sees the rim.
This time, he saw it a little more clearly.
A little more than three minutes into Ohio State’s opening game of the Big Ten tournament, the junior guard cut from the three-point line, took a pass from Kyle Young, cut through the lane and threw down a contested dunk in the paint. Around him, his teammates howled. Above him, the massive scoreboard at Lucas Oil Stadium showed the 6-0 lead for the Buckeyes.
It was the start of a dunk party for Washington and his teammates, who took out two weeks’ worth of frustration by slamming home seven first-half dunks, building an early double-digit lead and fending off No. 13 seed Minnesota 79-75.
Ohio State led 72-60 with 1:38 to play before the Gophers (14-15) made it 75-74 with 8.9 seconds left. E.J. Liddell was fouled with 8.0 left and hit two free throws for some breathing room.
With the win, the fifth-seeded Buckeyes (19-8) will face No. 4 seed Purdue at approximately 2 p.m. Friday in search of avenging a two-game regular season series sweep this season as well as their first tournament appearance with multiple wins since 2014.
Ohio State also avenged its 17-point loss to the Gophers in the only matchup between the teams this season. Liam Robbins (ankle) and Gabe Kalscheur (thumb), who had 27 and 13 points, respectively, in that game, watched this one from the bench area. A couple thousand spectators watched, too, in the first game the Buckeyes have played in front of fans this season.
It helped the Buckeyes exorcise some demons and channel those two weeks’ worth of frustration into the opening minutes of this game. Washington scored on a physical drive to the right block on the opening possession of the game, and not even six minutes later he threw a no-look lob to a cutting Young for an alley-oop, two-handed slam that put the Buckeyes ahead 13-0. They wouldn’t allow a point until Both Gach scored on a layup with 13:05 remaining in the half as the Gophers missed their first eight shots and had committed three turnovers until that point.
Ohio State would stall, though, and turn it over on four straight possessions and six of nine as Minnesota slowly crept closer. A controversial Flagrant 1 foul call on Musa Jallow led to a four-point possession for the Gophers and a 6-0 run that pulled them within 21-17 with 5:05 to play in the half as Chris Holtmann called timeout.
The dunk show would resume shortly. After the teams traded threes, Washington threw another lob to Justice Sueing, who slammed it home for a 26-20 lead. A moment later, Jallow laid in a Walker lob to make it 35-22. And on the final Ohio State possession of the half, Jallow nabbed a pass from Minnesota’s Marcus Carr, sprinted up the court and jammed it home.
It earned him an energetic high-five from Holtmann and a 39-27 halftime lead for the Buckeyes. They sprinted to their locker room, as the Golden Gophers ambled their way to theirs.