Preview: Ohio State vs. #16 Minnesota

By Corey Carpenter on February 6, 2009 at 7:00a
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Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State 16-5, 6-4 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 8:00 PM ET - BTN —— The Schott Columbus, OH Minnesota Golden Gophers #19 Minnesota 18-4, 6-4 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Minnesota limps into Columbus Saturday to face off against streakin' Ohio State, sending the winner into third place in the conference.

The Gophers took down OSU 68-59 back before the Fiesta Bowl was played and just five games after the Lighty injury.

After starting the season 16-1, Tubby's squad has lost 3 of 5, including a 76-47 stomping at the hands of Michigan State on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Ohio State has won 3 straight by an average of 12 points, scoring almost 87 points a game in their last two.

However, the Bucks have allowed four of the last five teams to shoot at least 47 percent.

#NamePTSREBASSTPOS#NamePTSREBASST
2 Jeremie Simmons 7.7 1.7 3.1 G 0 Al Nolan 8.2 3.7 5.1
33 Jon Diebler 11.0 3.2 2.8 G 20 Lawrence Westbrook 13.9 2.6 1.7
21 Evan Turner 17.0 7.4 3.2 F 34 Damian Johnson 9.8 4.3 2.1
44 William Buford 11.9 3.4 1.1 F 45 Colton Iverson 5.8 3.6 0.7
52 Dallas Lauderdale 5.2 4.3 0.3 C 50 Ralph Simpson III 6.8 4.3 0.9

Opponent

Minnesota comes in scoring 63.5 points a game in B10 play, connecting in 41.4 percent of their FG attempts, which ranks 10th in the league. They aren't much better from deep, hitting a 9th best 32.4 percent. The Gophers still play some of the best tough-nosed defense around, limiting opponents to 63 points and 40 percent shooting. In the first match up, their switch from man to zone halfway through the first completely befuddled the young Bucks.

The Gophers will run 10-11 guys into the rotation, bringing waves of fresh defenders to help press Ohio State's weak ball handling and cut off driving lanes. Blake Hoffarber and freshman Devoe Joseph will lead off the bench, while Jamal Abu-Shamala and Devron Bostick will also see 10+ minutes. Joseph matched a season high 11 points on Wednesday, but Hoffarber hasn't reached double digits in his last 10.

Minnesota's offense has definitely slowed the last five games, failing to score more than 67 points or shoot better than 47 percent. They were 8-20 from beyond the arc in the first meeting and did a good job of exposing the weak spots of OSU's zone. If the Bucks aren't careful, their loose rotations could lead to an offensive resurgence.

Buckeye Breakdown:

Ohio State has raised their league scoring average to 68.8 points a game, second only to Michigan State. Their shooting has been remarkable the last couple of weeks, now hitting over 50 percent of their B10 shots, but it makes you wonder how long they can keep it up.

Their performance in Minnesota could be a season worst, getting 4 total shots from Mullens and Lauderdale, while Simmons and Buford combined to shoot 2-14. Simmons was a no-show Tuesday and the bigs were absent 2 games ago, so the concern of consistency from the role players is still in question.

Luckily Turner and Buford look like they can't be stopped. Turner, the reigning POW, is scoring 26 a game over the last 3, while Buford has hit for 50 in the last 2. If those two can get some help from Mullens and Diebler, the Bucks should come away with a victory. PG play is a huge concern tomorrow against the pressure D, so don't be surprised to see Turner at point a little more, as he had success against Purdue from that spot.

It will obviously be another hard fought B10 battle, but Thad's squad isn't cooling off just yet, using a balanced attack to pull away 76-68. The Buckeyes will take a week off after this one, traveling to Whisky next Saturday for an ESPN primetime tilt.

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