Early on, it looked like the Buckeyes might be able to spring a road upset as they led Minnesota by seven but a 19-2 run to end the first half took care of those thoughts before the physical Gophers finally prevailed 68-59 this afternoon in The Barn.
I guess you can take the fact that Ohio State didn't quit, going on a 10-0 run after trailing 60-42 with 4:37 left, as a moral victory but the bottom line is this team has some major flaws that come to light each game, win or lose.
First, this team has no legit point guard. Simmons and Hill combined to shoot a frigid 2/12 with four assists against four turnovers and neither showed any ability to effectively penetrate the zone Tubby unleashed midway through the first half completely changing the complexion of the game. The play of Simmons and Hill further illustrated what an idiotic pair Crater and his momma truly are. More minutes were coming they just refused to be patient.
Simmons had actually shown some improvement against Iowa but there was no carryover. His play was so erratic Matta was forced to pine him leading to the lowest minutes Simmons has played (21) since the opener against Delaware State.
Hill was the benefactor of Simmons' stank, registering a career high 19 minutes in his return home but he tried to do a little too much after his lightning in a bottle effort against Iowa. I do like Hill's energy, but I don't like him thinking he's on the floor to launch 17 footers. He's got a 29% career FG% for a reason. If he's going to be in the rotation he's gotta stick to the role Thad wants him to play.
The other major issue killing the Buckeyes is a lack of consistent production from Lauderdale and Mullens. Those two were flat out pushed around today and Mullens appears to have one foot in Matta's doghouse as he didn't even enter the game until midway through the first half.
Mullens pulled down five caroms, Lauderdale just four in 29 minutes, allowing the Gophers to post a 35-27 edge on the glass including a 13-7 advantage at the offensive end. The Gopher rebounding cushion underscored what was truly a physical game with Evan Turner taking the brunt of the pounding.
To his credit, Turner battled on the boards pulling down a game-high eight rips while scoring 21 points but the physical toll he's taking has had a major impact on his shooting. In the three games against legit foes since Lighty's injury, Turner is shooting 32.6% (15/46) while playing no less than 39 minutes in each of those three contests.
Diebler also had a decent showing with 15 points (5/13 FG, 5/11 3FG) and 5 steals though he did have a game high three turnovers. If nothing else, he at least appears to have full confidence in his shot, even when it isn't falling which is the mentality he has to have as the only real option to consistently help Turner.
When the dust settled, the Buckeye offense rivaled the weather outside as Ohio State shot 34% from the floor (18/52). The low percentage was the product of few good looks at the hoop in the half court and a non-existent transition game.
Even with a loss that was worse than the final score, at least in my eyes, it's important to keep perspective. Winning on the road in conference is always a chore and it doesn't get any easier with a trip to East Lansing slated for 7pm Tuesday night before a two-home-game-breather against Houston Baptist and Indiana.
If you are Matta, what adjustments, if any, would you make from a strategy or personnel standpoint?