Gopher sophomore guard Marcus Carr scored a career-high 35 points and Daniel Oturu had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Minnesota toppled undefeated and third-ranked Ohio State 84-71 on Sunday night for coach Richard Pitino’s first win against a top-five team.
Oturu outworked Kaleb Wesson in the paint to win the battle of two of the Big Ten’s best big men with his sixth double-double of the season for the Gophers (5-5, 1-1). Prior to this game, the highest-ranked opponent they’d beaten in seven years under Pitino was No. 6 Maryland on Feb. 18, 2016.
Freshmen D.J. Carton (19 points) and E.J. Liddell (14 points) had season highs off the bench for the Buckeyes (9-1, 1-1), and Wesson had 12 points and six rebounds with his playing time limited by foul trouble.
Carr, who’s in his debut with the Gophers after sitting out last season following a transfer from Pittsburgh, shot 12 for 17 from the floor to lead a determined bounce-back from a 20-point loss at Iowa earlier in the week. Carr went 1 for 10 in that game, in which Minnesota’s three starting guards combined for 10 points on 3-for-29 shooting.
The last time the Gophers beat a top-five foe was No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 26, 2013, under coach Tubby Smith. They were swarmed by their fans at midcourt after the clock ran out Sunday.
Minnesota beat the Buckeyes’ average scoring allowance by 30 points. That was fifth in the nation entering the game.
Ohio State outscored its last two opponents 105-61 in the second half, but there was no surge against Minnesota. Wesson picked up his fourth foul at the top of the key for an illegal screen, lowering a shoulder into Gabe Kalscheur with 13:47 to go. Then Carr swished a 3-pointer for a 53-37 lead.
The Buckeyes came as close as nine points down the stretch with less than four minutes left, but Carr answered with a three-point play after a drive in traffic drew a foul on Andre Wesson to push the lead back to 72-60.
Minnesota caught a big break with the absence of Ohio State’s second-leading scorer and best 3-point shooter Duane Washington Jr., who didn’t dress for the game because of a rib injury. Washington went 8 for 14 from 3-point range over the previous two games.
Ohio State stormed into Minnesota’s storied Williams Arena with the opportunity to take one of the top two spots in the next Associated Press poll, after No. 1 Louisville lost to Texas Tech earlier in the week.
The last remaining unbeaten team in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes took the nation’s best scoring differential, an average margin of 26.2 points per game, into the night. They took two big steps toward making this December one to remember, blowing out then-No. 7 North Carolina on the road and topping the 100-point mark in the conference opener against Penn State. That was the first time the Buckeyes reached triple digits in a Big Ten game since 2006.
Ohio State: Coach Chris Holtmann was red-faced at several timeouts, his team clearly off-kilter while playing for the first time in eight days. They never found a rhythm against Minnesota’s zone defense and were consistently vulnerable on defense when the Gophers were in transition.
Minnesota: A rough early schedule with six high-major nonconference opponents sure seemed to pay off with this performance. The Carr-Oturu tandem has showed the potential to be one of the best outside-inside duos in the league.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes return home to face Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday. Then they head to Las Vegas to face Kentucky. The Wildcats will present their third top-10 opponent of the season, in terms of ranking at the time of the game.
Minnesota: The Gophers have a six-day break from competition for final exams, before a sort-of-neutral-site game on Saturday against Oklahoma State in Tulsa, a 1-hour drive for the Cowboys from campus.
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(photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)