The short list of undefeated teams in college basketball was trimmed by one on Sunday evening as No. 3 Ohio State, 9-0 entering the weekend, suffered a surprising 84-71 loss to Minnesota. The Buckeyes were seven-point road favorites and on track to likely be ranked No. 1 when the AP and Coaches Poll rankings were updated Monday.
Given the track record of the Buckeyes this season, that No. 1 ranking was all but a foregone conclusion until the Golden Gophers dug them into a hole they couldn’t arise from Sunday night. In their nine games this season prior to Sunday, they ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring margin and No. 3 in the country in points allowed per game. Minnesota scoffed at those stats and controlled the game from start to finish. It took a lead six minutes into the game and never relinquished it.
Minnesota got a balanced attack from its two guards, Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined to make 19 of the team’s 31 shots from the field. Carr scored a career-high 35 points to lead the way for the Gophers while Kalscheur added 15. Center Daniel Oturu added 14 points and 13 rebounds, finishing as the only player in the game with double-digit boards.
While Minnesota’s core shined, OSU’s, in part, was missing. Its second-leading scorer, Duane Washington, missed the game with a rib injury. Leading scorer, Kaleb Wesson, scored 12 points but committed a team-high six turnovers, part of a 16-turnover effort from the Buckeyes in defeat.
With the Buckeyes taking their first loss of the season, the list of unbeaten college basketball teams this season falls to four: Liberty, Auburn, San Diego State and Duquesne. Ohio State faces Southeast Missouri State on Tuesday before a marquee matchup with Kentucky on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic.
Let’s get to a few key takeaways.
1. Big Ten remains wide open
There’s never an opportune time to take a loss as a favorite, but Ohio State probably picked the worst spot of the season to do so. In just its second conference game of the season, the loss pushes it to 1-1 in league play overall. That means these teams are now all 1-1 in Big Ten play this season: Maryland, Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Nebraska and Minnesota. A 12-way tie for second place in the league!
2. Duane Washington’s importance on display
This is a cliche quote from a diary post-high school break-up (probably), but it’s nonetheless true in this spot: sometimes you don’t fully appreciate someone until they’re gone. And that was certainly the case Sunday as Ohio State unsuccessfully battled without second-leading scorer Duane Washington. Washington is an efficient scorer (53.7% from 3 this season, 52.1% from the field), but he moonlights as a necessary perimeter defender capable of erasing some of Ohio State’s deficiencies with his length, and also a capable of secondary ball-handler. Without him, the Buckeyes gave up a 35-point scorer and also committed a season-high 16 turnovers.
3. Marcus Carr’s moment
After losing by 20 on the road to DePaul a week ago, Marcus Carr said Minnesota wanted to come out and make a statement against the (likely-to-be) No. 1 team in college basketball. So that’s exactly what Minnesota — and Carr — did. In that DePaul loss, Carr scored two points. In the Ohio State win, Carr notched a career-high 35 points and added seven assists.
“We came out here with a chip on our shoulder and proved it tonight,” Carr told the Big Ten Network after the game. “After that last performance, my guys hit me up and told me they believe in me. My guys having confidence in me brings out my confidence.”
Minnesota will have another chance to prove its mettle on Saturday with a tough tilt slated against Oklahoma State. With the win it improves to 1-1 in Big Ten play. Conference play for the Golden Gophers resumes Jan. 2 with a road game against Purdue.