(Photo courtesy of BuckeyeXtra – The Columbus Dispatch)

The last outing by the Buckeyes versus the Purdue Boilermakers was a complete heartbreaker.

As Ken stated in his post-game roundup

Ohio State got absolutely blistered on the glass, particularly at the offensive end. Purdue held a 44-32 advantage in total rebounds and a 14-6 advantage with offensive rebounds. A result of superior offensive rebounding is opportunity for “2nd chance points”, be it via put-backs or additional possession. This cannot be repeated in Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Any such repeat will not pan out well for the Buckeyes.

Jae’Sean Tate, the Buckeyes leading scorer with an average of 14.1 points per game will need to step up his board-snatching on the offensive side of the court. He is one of three Power 5 Conference players that is 6’4” or shorter that is averaging more than six rebounds per game (He is at 6.5). Tate is tied at 13th nationally with that number for 6’4” and shorter players. He is 10th nationally with 2.0 per game on the offensive side. That all sounds wonderful – but 3 boards offensively against Purdue may have made the difference.

Trevor Thompson the Buckeyes leading rebounder at 8.7 per game also has the second most (four) double-double in the national spectrum among players averaging 22 minutes per game. Thompson comes off the bench, he is averaging the second-most rebounds per game nationally – as I have mentioned at 8.7.

The loss of Keita Bates-Diop to a stress fracture has not fully shown the possible devastation that could transpire. The 6’7” Junior in nine games was averaging 9.7 points per game with 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Those numbers in itself isn’t ‘far-off-the-table-fantastic’. But what Kieta brings to the court isn’t always measured in numbers – though had he been healthier along the way those numbers would’ve been considerably better – is a hard-nosed hustle that is, at least to me, a reminder of the Knicks style in the 1990’s. I love Kieta Bates-Diop, and the Buckeyes will feel the pinch of his loss, if they already haven’t. Someone needs to step up – and that time is now.

The Buckeyes lead the Golden Gophers in the head-to-head competition all-time 84-56. Though in Minnesota the Golden Gophers have the edge, 38-31.

The Golden Gophers are currently 14-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. They lost to Florida State right after Thanksgiving and Michigan State on right after Christmas. A note of interest, too, is they beat Purdue on New Year’s Day rather handily, 91-82.
The leading scorer for the Golden Gophers is 6’2” Jr G Nate Mason, averaging 14.5 points per game. Jordan Murphy the 6’6” S F leads the team in rebounding with an average of 8.4. Reggie Lynch the 6-10 S C has an average of 3.2 blocks per game.
In the one game that I saw of Minnesota this year, against Michigan State, I was impressed with Eric Curry 6’9” F Forward. His numbers, like Kieta’s, aren’t overwhelming – 6.3 points per game and 6.0 rebounds – but his style and hustle will distract a team’s plan. Watch this kid out of Memphis – he has talent.

Arguably this, in my mind, is a Buckeye win. They are a successful defending team, ranked 21st in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 38.6%. But then again I had that full handle prior to the Purdue game too.
The Kieta Bates-Diop loss will be felt here in this game. The fact that he is gone for the season will be digested in Minnesota. How they handle that distressing news and deal with it – I believe will put on display the remainder of the season to come.

The Buckeyes need this win. They cannot lose Bates-Diop and go 0-3 in the Big Ten to start if they want to be part of the conversation by year’s end.