Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson knows his rebuilding project requires patience and a positive attitude.
What Johnson also needs for his Golden Gophers (6-8, 0-4 Big Ten) are more victories and fewer heartbreaks like the overtime loss to Nebraska in the team’s most recent game.
That quest resumes Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, against an equally hungry Ohio State (10-5, 2-2) looking to end a two-game skid.
Minnesota showed grit in tying Nebraska on a 3-pointer by Taurus Samuels with 4.8 seconds remaining in regulation. The Gophers, however, ultimately lost 81-79 to remain winless in conference play.
“I want them to taste that success,” said Johnson, a 2005 Minnesota graduate, who is in his second season as Golden Gophers head coach. “The hardest thing is to keep showing up when you don’t always get the results.”
The Buckeyes know what it’s like to win but haven’t done so lately due in part to the absence of forward Zed Key, who is third on the team in scoring (12.4 points per game) and first in rebounding (7.8).
He left 3:38 into the first half against then-No. 1 Purdue on Thursday with a shoulder sprain and has not played since. The Buckeyes dropped a 71-69 decision to the Boilermakers and an 80-73 setback at Maryland on Sunday.
“We’re anxious to get him back,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Monday. “It’s a significant injury for us as a team but also one we expect him back relatively soon. When that’s going to happen is kind of day-to-day at this point.”
Freshman center Felix Okpara made his first start versus Maryland, but the Buckeyes missed Key’s presence around the basket.
“It was the lack of physicality in the paint that he provides, certainly the offensive and defensive rebounding that I think we missed with him, and just Zed’s ability to get guys in foul trouble because of how physical he is in the low post,” Holtmann said. “We don’t have another guy like that. That’s not Felix’s game right now, he’s just a different post player.”
— Field Level Media