O-H…I-O is A-OK at MSG (Big Ten Super Saturday)

Robert Cole/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEW YORK — Ohio State guard Jae’Sean Tate is familiar with the history and mystique associated with Madison Square Garden, but, when asked if he remembered any specific game or performance that stood out in his mind that took place at The World’s Most Famous Arena, he sheepishly drew a blank.

No worries, then. He and the rest of the Buckeyes just went out and made some more basketball memories in New York City, continuing the Buckeyes’ surprising start to conference play.

Tate was one of four players who scored in double figures for the Buckeyes as they used a 17-0 run in the first half to blow the game open and defeat Minnesota 67-49 to start Big Ten Super Saturday, the annual basketball and hockey doubleheader involving Big Ten universities squaring off at Madison Square Garden. The Buckeyes, who won their third consecutive game away from home in a span of a week with today’s win, are now 8-0 in the Big Ten, their best start to a conference season since the 2011 team started the season 24-0 overall and won its first 11 Big Ten contests.

Ohio State’s start today was rather sluggish, as they fell behind 20-10 midway through the first half. With Minnesota up 22-17, however, Ohio State scored the game’s next 17 points, fueled by the play-making of Tate and the inside-outside combination of guard CJ Jackson and low-post player Kaleb Wesson, the latter two combining for 13 of the 17 points in the run. Wesson finished the game with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while Jackson finished with 11 points.

Keita Bates-Diop, who scored over 25 points in three consecutive games earlier this month, finished with a game-high 17 points as he became the 55th Buckeye to score over 1,000 career points with his performance today.

Tate, along with six first-half points, had five assists in the opening 20 minutes.

“My whole thing was to just make the right play,” said Tate, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in the contest.

Ohio State has been making the right plays since the start of December, winning 12 of their last 13 games after a home loss to Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 29. Even more impressive is how they’ve been winning their games in league play, highlighted by their 80-64 home triumph over then-No. 1 Michigan State two weeks ago.
With their 18-point win against the Gophers, Ohio State’s average margin of victory in league play stands at 16.1.

“I’ve been fortunate to coach some teams that had tremendous chemistry, likability. They were fun to be around. This team’s up there, in terms of how much they like each other,” said first-year Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann. “Obviously, winning always helps, but even when we struggled, and when we’ve been knocked around, they like being around each other. That is, as much as anything, the reason for our early success.”

Like the Buckeyes, Minnesota was also playing its third game this week, all of them away from the Twin Cities, and the fatigue level showed the most on the Gophers during the second half when they shot just 6-of-21 (28.6 percent)
from the field. They never were able to cut into Ohio State’s seven-point lead at halftime.

“I think, at the end of the day, I really liked [our] effort,” said Minnesota head coach Ricard Pitino, who has seen his team now drop five of its last six games. “I just think we’re really, really tired and need to go home and get some rest.”

The biggest positive for the Gophers today was the return of forward Amir Coffey, who missed the last five games with a shoulder injury. Coffey, the team’s third-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, scored 11 points and had three rebounds in 35 minutes.

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