Ohio State got a taste of how the Big Ten tournament will feel six weeks from now — and it seems like Madison Square Garden suits the Buckeyes this season just as well as every other Big Ten venue.
In the opener of the Big Ten’s Super Saturday basketball-hockey doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, No. 22 Ohio State eventually put the defensive clamps on Minnesota and rolled to a 67-49 victory on Saturday afternoon in New York City.
Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop produced 17 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double this season to lead the Buckeyes (17-4, 8-0), who kept pace with Purdue atop the Big Ten standings.
Freshman center Kaleb Wesson added 15 points and eight rebounds while junior point guard C.J. Jackson contributed all 11 of his points in the first half.
Minnesota (14-8, 3-6), which lost for the fifth time in the last six games, got 13 points and just five rebounds from junior power forward Jordan Murphy — the nation’s No. 2 rebounder. Senior point guard Nate Mason added 11 points and nine rebounds.
While the Gophers played without suspended senior center Reggie Lynch for the sixth straight game, sophomore guard Amir Coffey (11 points) returned from the shoulder injury that cost him the last five games.
Minnesota blitzed out to a 10-point lead in the opening nine minutes. Coffey hit his first shot to get the Gophers started, then Murphy scored eight points in less than three minutes to stake Minnesota to a 20-10 lead with 11:01 left in the first half.
Ohio State needed just four minutes to regain the lead as Jackson flushed three 3-pointers and Wesson added nine points as the Buckeyes went on a 24-2 spree to seize a 34-22 lead with 4:14 to go before halftime.
Ohio State’s defense became even tougher to solve in the second half as the Gophers went 6 of 21 from the field (29 percent) with nine turnovers.
Mason’s layup with 11:34 to go pulled Minnesota within 51-40. By the time the Gophers made their next shot from the field — Coffey’s layup with 2:06 to play — Ohio State owned a 62-44 lead.
—Field Level Media