There's a difference between being offensive and going on the offensive. Maybe something got lost in translation for Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
This isn't how they wanted to start Big Ten play. The No. 11 Buckeyes (15-3, 2-3 Big Ten) dropped their third game in a row following a 63-53 upset at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten).
It's the first time they've lost three in a row since the 2008-09 season, per ESPN Cleveland:
#OhioState falls to Minnesota, 63-53. Buckeyes lose their 3rd straight game for the first time since 2008-09.— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) January 17, 2014
Tom Withers of the Associated Press doesn't think Ohio State is in as much trouble as it seems:
O-State needs to get offense going, for sure. But 3 straight losses were to quality opponents and Michigan State and Minnesota tough at home— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) January 17, 2014
As you could've surmised from the final score, OSU's offense was offensive, and not in a good way. The Bucks shot 35.3 percent as a team (18-of-51).
The story of the game was how bad Ohio State was with the ball in its possession. It was very similar to the Buckeyes' 64-61 win over Notre Dame, only this time there wasn't a crazy run at the end/capitulation by the other team to help OSU snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
LaQuinton Ross was the lone bright spot, leading all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He was one of two Buckeyes players in double figures, Sam Thompson being the other. Shannon Scott failed to record a field goal, going 0-of-3 with one point. Aaron Craft had seven points, but turned the ball over five times.
Michael DeCourcy of Sporting News thought Craft could've done a better job of handling the 2-3 zone:
Aaron Craft's play against the 2-3 zone here and vs Iowa is pretty much indefensible. Making the simple too hard.— Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) January 17, 2014
For the second game in a row, Lenzelle Smith Jr.—the team's second-leading scorer—was a complete non-factor in the closing minutes. Kurt Snyder of The Newark Advocate noted that Smith wasn't even on the court as the Buckeyes tried to claw their way back, which is telling as to how poorly he played:
He had eight points in the game.
Give credit where credit is due, as Minnesota was the only team to show up on Thursday night. The Golden Gophers forced 13 turnovers and out-rebounded Ohio State, 39-24. They also shot 51.1 percent from the field, despite making only 3-of-14 three-point attempts.
Three of Minnesota's players were in double figures, and eight different players scored at least two points, compared to five for Ohio State. Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu combined for 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
Elliott Eliason had a double-double, totaling 12 points and 13 rebounds. It's his sixth double-double of the season, which is the most in the Big Ten, per BigTenStatsGuys:
This is a massive win for the Golden Gophers. They look like a surefire tournament team up to this point in the season, and beating the Buckeyes helps lessen some of the sting of that overtime loss to Michigan State last Saturday.
ESPN's Dick Vitale also thinks Minnesota's performance helps establish Richard Pitino as a head coach on the rise.
The Golden Gophers still have a few stern tests ahead, as they travel to Iowa City on Sunday and then welcome Wisconsin next Wednesday. Those two games will reveal just how good this Minnesota team is.