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Gophers men’s hoops at Ohio State

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

Three-point shooting – Gophers coach Richard Pitino hasn’t lost confidence in sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur. Neither has his teammates. Kalscheur, who shot 41 percent from three-point range and led all Big Ten freshmen with 77 threes, is experiencing the biggest slump of his young career. His five straight games under double figures is the longest in two seasons. The former DeLaSalle standout is averaging just 6.0 points on 30 percent shooting from the field (12 for 40) and 19.4 percent from three (6 for 31) in the last five games.Gabe’s one of the best shooters in the country,” sophomore point guard Marcus Carr said Wednesday. “Based on strictly percentages, the ball’s going to go in eventually." That appeared to be the case in Sunday’s 64-56 loss at Rutgers. Kalscheur scored seven of the teams’ first 10 points to help the Gophers take an eight-point lead to start. Problem is he only scored two points the rest of the game. Kalscheur has shown he can catch fire quickly. In fact, the only time the Gophers have won away from home so far this season was behind his 34-point performance with 7-for-9 shooting from long distance in a 20-point win vs. Oklahoma State in Tulsa on Dec. 21. The Buckeyes might be the opponent he finally finds his rhythm against Thursday night. Their three-point shooting defense ranks worst among Big Ten teams in league play at 38.7 percent. Kalscheur had 15 points in Minnesota’s 84-71 win Dec. 15 against Ohio State at home.

Rebounding battle – The Gophers were “manhandled” on the glass in the loss at Rutgers, which included giving up 20 offensive boards. But they were used to handing out that type of punishment on the boards. They still rank ahead of Rutgers in fifth with plus-3.4 rebounding margin through eight games. Jordan Murphy isn’t coming through the Barn doors. Gophers fans will never forget Gophers’ career (1,307 boards is 2nd in Big Ten history). But sophomore Daniel Oturu is having a record-setting season of his own. Oturu, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds in the last meeting against the Buckeyes, leads the conference with 11.9 boards per game. Pitino emphasized being physical and attacking the glass in practices since the loss to the Scarlet Knights. We’ll see if Minnesota can get back on track with its rebounding prowess against Ohio State.

Fatigue factor – The Gophers haven’t won a true road game this season. Has fatigue contributed to those losses? Sophomore point guard Marcus Carr, who had a career-high 35 points against Ohio State last month, averages 38.8 minutes in conference games to lead the Big Ten. Oturu is third in conference games at 37.1 minutes per game. Kalscheur is also sixth at 36.0. Oturu is the only post player other than Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman (35.0) in the top 10. Carr, Oturu and Kalscheur have been durable this season with exception to Oturu’s brief departure when he injured his left shoulder in a win Jan. 12 against Michigan. How much will these heavy minutes start to wear on them as the season unfolds? The Big Ten is obviously not just deep in talent but also teams that love a grind-it-out style. Mental and physical toughness becomes difficult to maintain when you’re tired late in games.

GAME INFO

Time: 5:30 CT, Thursday. Where: Value City Arena. Line: Minnesota 8.5-point underdog. Series: Ohio State leads the series 52-88, but the Gophers won the last meeting 84-71 on Dec. 15. TV: FS1. Online/Live video: FoxSportsapp Radio: 100.3

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (10-8, 4-4)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G – Marcus Carr 6-2 190 So. 16.1

G – Payton Willis 6-5 200 Jr. 9.6

G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 So. 11.8

F – Alihan Demir 6-9 235 Sr. 7.8

C – Daniel Oturu 6-10 245 So. 20.2

Key reserves– Tre’ Williams, G, 6-5, Fr., 3.5 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, So., 2.5 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Sr., 1.8 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, Fr., 1.8 ppg.

Coach: Richard Pitino 140-114 (8th season overall)

Notable: Redshirt junior big man Eric Curry had successful surgery in the fall on a torn ACL in his right knee suffered during practice Oct. 7. The 6-9 redshirt junior hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year in 2016-17 after tearing ligaments in his left knee in 2017 and foot surgery last season. The last time Curry saw the court for the Gophers was with six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 13 minutes in a win at Northwestern on Feb. 28, 2019. Curry’s best performance last season was with 11 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench in a 65-64 victory against Penn State on Jan. 19 at the Barn.

OHIO STATE BUCKEYS (12-6, 2-5)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G – C.J. Walker 6-1 195 Jr. 7.5

G – Duane Washington Jr. 6-3 195 So. 11.3

G – Luther Muhammad 6-3 185 So. 6.5

F – Kyle Young 6-8 205 Jr. 7.4

C – Kaleb Wesson 6-9 270 Jr. 14.7

Key reserves – D.J. Carton, G, 6-2, Fr., 10.1 ppg; Alonzo Gaffney, F, 6-9, Fr., 2.2 ppg; Andre Wesson, F, 6-6, Sr., 9.2 ppg; E.J. Liddell, F, 6-6, Fr., 6.9 ppg.

Coach: Chris Holtmann 171-115 (9th season)

Notable: Minnesota’s longest current Big Ten road losing streak is in Columbus at 10 straight games. The Gophers haven’t won at Ohio State since 2005. The Buckeyes have lost five of their last six games, but their lone win was 80-68 at home last week against lowly Nebraska … Ohio State freshman guard D.J. Carton had a career-high 19 points in the loss to the Gophers last month. Carton, who averages 10.1 points and 3.1 assists, has scored in double figures in three of his last four games.

Fuller’s prediction (12-6 with picks): Ohio State 76, Gophers 67.