The Buckeyes suffer a stunning loss (their first) on the road at Minnesota…in a game where there was never a point that suggested that Ohio State could win.
Columbus – Ohio State lost its basketball virginity, possibly the No. 1 ranking in the nation and any feelings of invincibility it might have had all in one swoop Sunday night, and it was all captured live and in color on the Big Ten Network.
The outcome almost seemed to be in the cards with the way the Big Ten season has started. All 13 visiting teams have mostly been torched more than defeated, and the Buckeyes fell into lock step.
But who would have thought the team that would ruin their spotless record would be Minnesota?
The Gophers, of all people, competed like the NCAA team it probably won’t be in leading by as many as 18 points in tap-dancing on Ohio State 84-71 before 9,854 at Williams Arena.
Coach Chris Holtmann acted like a man who couldn’t wait to get on the jet back to campus and start working on what ailed his team. His news conference was less than five minutes, or about 25 to 30 minutes shorter than usual.
“We’ve got to figure out how to coach better and play better going forward,’’ coach Chris Holtmann. “They were physically tougher. We’ve got to get better in that area. I have to coach it better.’’
The insulting cherry on the top for the Buckeyes was wading through hundreds of screaming students swarming the court.
Yes, there are few arenas quirkier and more difficult to play in than “The Barn’’ because of its raised floor and lightly colored wood floor that gives players the feeling they are on stage.
At the same time, there were almost 5,000 empty seats.
Ohio State also played without second-leading scorer Duane Washington with injured ribs, but Holtmann said the sophomore guard wouldn’t have made up the scoring difference.
Then there was the fact that the team outfitted in maroon and gold played so hard and so focused.
“I thought they really played well and deserved to win,’’ Holtmann said. “They bothered us with their physicality.’’
How much did the Gophers play over their heads?
They lost their conference opener by 20 points to Iowa and were soundly beaten in non-conference games by Oklahoma, Butler and DePaul.
But on this night sophomore guard Marcus Carr, a transfer from Pitt, played in rarefied air in scoring 35 points on 12-for-17 shooting and having seven assists.
The guy came in shooting 35.3 percent overall and 28.3 percent from three-point range, making one wonder if another Marcus Carr had been playing for Minnesota the first nine games.
He was 1-for-10 in the debacle against Iowa.
“I thought he was outstanding,’’ Holtmann said. “I thought he was tremendous. He was a difficult match-up for us. Credit to him. I thought he played a whale of a game. He had a great night.’’
The Buckeyes know how Villanova and Penn State felt when they were dropping three-pointers, dunking as if it were a contest and generally playing on rails in laughing all the way to the locker room.
There was never any point in the game that suggested Ohio State (9-1) could win. It came out looking as though it hadn’t played in seven days and had gone through final exams and then no school at all because of holiday break.
The biggest signs of trouble came right after the opening tip when the Buckeyes were stunningly awful on defense and showed much confusion on offense.
Junior center Kaleb Wesson had his worst game since last season in shooting 4-for-13 shooting, making six turnovers and getting four fouls.
He had no answer for physical 6-9 Daniel Oturu and got eaten up. Oturu totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Minnesota snatched 11 offensive rebounds, was 31-for-57 shooting for 54.4 percent and made 15 of 20 free throws. It came in shooting 62.1 percent from the line.
Ohio State is not alone getting hammered on the road. Wisconsin lost at Rutgers, Maryland at Penn State, Michigan at Illinois and Purdue at Rutgers.
The Buckeyes will get a rematch with the Gophers on January 23 in The Schott.
Next up is a home game against Southeast Missouri State at 7 p.m. Tuesday.