Ohio State shouldn’t rely so heavily on Deshaun Thomas if it wants to win in March, but Wednesday night against Minnesota, the Gophers’ severe offensive struggles masked the Buckeyes dependence.
Thomas scored 19 points, though he was a less-than-efficient 6-of-16 from the floor, in Ohio State’s 71-45 dismantling of Minnesota at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The win stops a skid that saw the Buckeyes lose three of their last four, all three of those games coming against ranked teams in the nation’s toughest conference. This doesn’t say much about Ohio State other than the fact that they stopped a bad stretch from going any farther and hope to have righted the ship before a big matchup Sunday with No. 4 Michigan State.
Ohio State’s defense is the engine of its overall attack in a conference that is full of quality defenses, but they met a Minnesota team Wednesday that has made a habit of turning the ball over and taking themselves out of winnable games because of it. The Gophers turned the ball over 21 times and shot just 29 percent from the floor.
The focus will shift Sunday to guard Aaron Craft, who will be tabbed with continuing to slow down Michigan State point guard Keith Appling. Appling struggled against No. 1 Indiana Tuesday night, but was the biggest reason the Spartans scored a home win over Ohio State earlier in the season in East Lansing.
Once they jump that hurdle, win or loss, they still have a date with No. 1 Indiana before what promises to be an interesting Big Ten tournament. With that in mind, that is why Wednesday win over Minnesota means so much. The Buckeyes couldn’t have afforded to be sliding with Michigan State, Indiana, and Illinois on the horizon.