Slow Start, Poor Shooting Dooms Ohio State — Again — in Loss to Minnesota

By Tim Shoemaker on January 8, 2017 at 11:15 pm
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta on the sidelines at Minnesota.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

If you're an Ohio State fan who watched Sunday's game at Minnesota, odds are you felt like you were watching something very familiar. 

The Buckeyes lost to the Gophers, 78-68, and it certainly looked an awful lot like many of Ohio State's losses over the last couple of seasons. There was a slow start, a handful of head-scratching turnovers, a poor shooting performance. The list somewhat goes on.

It's a recurring theme and it's certainly not a good one.  

In this loss to Minnesota, the Buckeyes fell behind early as they made just one field goal in the first eight-plus minutes of the game. Before Ohio State knew what hit it, the Gophers held an 18-point lead as it was 26-8.

A big reason why the Buckeyes struggled so much in the early going was due to another issue that's become quite a recurring theme: turnovers. Ohio State committed 14 turnovers in the game — a decent number for this team — but seven of those came in the first seven minutes of action. 

Many were the unforced kind, too. And that's something that has continued to doom this team for the better part of two seasons. The Buckeyes put themselves in a hole due to a series of unforced errors and once again they weren't able to dig out.

"We knew Minnesota was the team that got off to great starts in the last two games and that is incredible as I have ever seen, but we weren’t in the pace or the intensity," head coach Thad Matta told reporters after the game. "They got into the flow of the offense quicker and once we settled down we made some baskets.”

Ohio State does have a habit of fighting back once it gets down, however. The Buckeyes certainly don't quit when they fall behind and they play hard — for the most part. But this team just doesn't seem to have the offensive firepower to get over the hump and that was once again on display Sunday night.

Ohio State shot just 41 percent from the field for the game. The number was only that high because of the 52 percent mark the Buckeyes posted in the second half. Ohio State was just 10-of-33 shooting from the field in the first half and that — in addition to the turnovers — is why it fell behind. Offensively, there was little movement in the early going as the Buckeyes forced contested shot after contested shot.

Players and coaches continue to say all of the right things when asked about these recurring themes, but they continue to happen. That's a big problem for Ohio State.

A 0-3 start in the Big Ten never happened to the Buckeyes under Matta until this season. With a road game at Wisconsin and a home matchup with Michigan State next, 0-5 is a very real possibility. That would be disastrous and there's no other way to really say it.

There are still 15 games remaining in the regular season so Ohio State has plenty of opportunities to get the ship righted. We're not into late February or March just yet.

But there's no doubt Matta and Co. need to find a way to get this fixed and fixed in a hurry. 

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