There is no denying that the No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes are in a major rut as they are entering the tail end of one of the most difficult stretches any team in college basketball has endured this season. The Scarlet and Grey have lost three of their last four games, but a duo of unheralded players will provide the Buckeyes with a much needed victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers tonight.
Junior small forward Deshaun Thomas has only been held under 15 points in two games this season, so it is safe to assume the Buckeyes will get a Herculean effort from their star performer once again.
In order to bounce back from an embarrassing 71-49 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last Sunday, though, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams will need to take some of the load off of Thomas.
Ohio State is 6-1 when Thompson scores 10 points or more, however, the Buckeyes need the sophomore small forward to keep Rodney Williams in check defensively.
Williams is one of the best leapers in the country and does most of his damage at the rim. Over the course of Minnesota's last eight games, Williams has been held under 10 points five times. Minnesota is 0-5 in those contests.
If Thompson is able to slow down Williams and make an impact at the offensive end of the floor, the Buckeyes should have no problem dispatching the Golden Gophers at Value City Arena.
Which team will win this Big Ten Conference tilt?
Sophomore center Amir Williams will also need to have a standout game defensively to lead Ohio State to a victory.
Minnesota is one of the best teams in the country in terms of pulling down offensive rebounds. The Golden Gophers thrive off of second-chance points inside from their 15.1 offensive boards per game.
Williams will need to box out sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe consistently in order to neutralize one of Minnesota's greatest strengths.
The Buckeyes need strong outings from Williams and Thompson to help break out of their current funk and gain some positive momentum to propel them through the rest of the 2012-13 campaign.
With games against the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans and No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers on the horizon, anything but a victory tonight against Minnesota will have Ohio State limping into the two most important games it has left on its schedule.
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