Hoops Preview: Buckeyes Finally Back In Action On Road At Minnesota

Ohio State has had a nine-day break thanks to a weekend postponement on Nebraska’s part. All things look good at the moment, fortunately, as the No. 16 Buckeyes (12-4, 5-2) are set for a clash at Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers (11-5, 2-5) Thursday night. Ohio State has not played a Big Ten opponent since a 61-56 win over Penn State 11 days ago. Minnesota was last in action on Saturday, which was a 68-65 win over Rutgers. This will just be the Gophers’ second game in the last 11 days, thanks to a January 19 postponement against Penn State.

Opening Tip

Who: Ohio State at Minnesota
What: Men’s Basketball
Where: Williams Arena – Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Thursday – 8:00 pm – ESPN
Why: Because teams have to play at least 25 games to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament

The Buckeyes​

Buckeye Game Notes​

  • E.J. Liddell comes into the game just 12 points away from 1,000 in his career. He would be the 60th Buckeye to reach the career milestone and the first since Duane Washington Jr. last season. Liddell has scored in double figures in all 16 games this season and has a streak of 27 consecutive games of 10 or more points dating back to last season. He is coming off a double-double vs. IUPUI of 13 points and 10 rebounds, marking his third double-double of the year and seventh of his career. Liddell is fourth in the conference at 19.4 ppg. The last Buckeye to average 20 points per game was Evan Turner during his national player of the year season in 2009-10.
  • Jamari Wheeler has not missed a game in his collegiate career, playing in all 143 of his team’s games. Wheeler is currently day-to-day with a foot/ankle issue. Also day-to-day is backup point guard Meechie Johnson following a facial injury in practice. Having both point guards out would not be the ideal way to survive on the road in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes do have plenty of experience from reserve point guard Jimmy Sotos, however.
  • Head coach Chris Holtmann’s next win will be his 100th as head coach at Ohio State. He has 213 in his 11-plus seasons as a head coach.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers

What You Need To Know​

  • Leading scorer Jamison Battle is a game-time decision due to a non-COVID illness. Fourth-leading scorer Eric Curry is also a game-time decision due to an ankle injury. Third-leading scorer EJ Stephens is expected to play after missing the Gophers’ previous game. All three starters missed Minnesota’s previous game against Rutgers, which required three Gophers to play all 40 minutes. In their absence, Payton Willis scored a career-high 32 points.
  • Payton Willis was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week after his outstanding performance against Rutgers. His 32 points marked a new career high for the senior. Willis hit eight three-pointers in the game, which was a new career best and tied a program record. He finished the game 11-of-17, 8-of-13 from three (4-4 in the second half), had three rebounds, seven assists and a steal.
  • Minnesota had one of its best shooting displays in the Rutgers win as the Gophers made 26-of-48 (.542) field goals, including a season-best 13-of-24 (.542) from three. It marked the sixth time the Gophers have shot 50 percent or better this season and second time from long-range. The Gophers had 13 threes and shot 54.2 percent, both season-highs. Last season, Minnesota failed to shoot 50 percent in any of its 29 games. Saturday’s 54.2 percent overall and from three-point range were both season-bests in Big Ten play. The Gophers have shot better than 50 percent three times in conference games this season, including the past two.
  • Minnesota ranks 23rd nationally and first in the conference in three-point defense. The Gophers have allowed 323 attempts and 117 opponent threes through 16 games and just 28.8 percent. In addition, Minnesota ranks fourth nationally in fewest fouls (and first in the Big Ten) with 222. The Gophers also rank third in the Big Ten in fewest turnovers and fifth nationally with 157.
  • EJ Stephens added a season-high 22 points vs. Iowa (1/16). Over the course of the past three games he’s played, Stephens has scored 52 points (12 at Indiana, 18 at Michigan State and 22 against Iowa), averaging 17.3 points per game. Stephens has nine double-figure scoring games this season, which includes six of the past eight games, and is averaging 13.4 points during that stretch. He also established his 200th career assist. In his collegiate career, Stephens has scored 1,197 points, including 180 as a Gopher.