Ken Johnson isn’t associated with the Ohio State men’s basketball team as closely as Scoonie Penn or Michael Redd, but the man can play.
The Buckeyes’ other All-American candidate proved that at The Barn on Saturday in the Buckeyes’ 82-72 win over Minnesota.
“That guy can block some shots, straight up,” Gophers center Kyle Sanden said. “He’s got great timing and everything. He’s got all the tools.”
Johnson rejected eight shots — seven in the first half alone — and scored 12 points to help Ohio State claim co-rights of the Big Ten regular season championship.
The 6-foot-11 center robbed the Gophers of their inside game, forcing them to change most of their shots. It wasn’t until the second half that Minnesota looked comfortable with Johnson.
“I just try to go out there and give it my best, whether it’s blocking shots or off the boards,” Johnson said. “I don’t go out there with any game plan. I just know that my best one night might be seven blocked shots and another night three.”
It would be easy to attribute Johnson’s success to the absence of ex-Gopher Joel Przybilla. But Minnesota coach Dan Monson took another approach. With a superstar-laden team like Ohio State, Monson says it’s hard to account for every player.
“We were more geared towards Scoonie and Michael. It’s really hard to come down and help off great players like those two,” Monson said. “We’re very thin up front right now, and they exposed that. I’d rather see someone else beat us, and I guess they did that.”
Johnson’s performance against the Gophers on Saturday fell three blocks shy of a career best.
Johnson has destructed many teams’ offenses in his collegiate run — he now has 309 career blocks.
The senior’s 151 swatted shots this year, a mark that earns the Big Ten season record previously set by Penn State’s Calvin Booth (140), leads the nation. Johnson is now fifth on the conference’s career blocked shots chart, a list Booth tops with 428.
But more important to Johnson than numbers is the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten tournament he, Penn and Redd, among others, earned Saturday.
“It’s all about working hard, really,” Johnson said. “Everybody is pushing everybody, and it just keeps going in the game. We’ve come a long way to get here.”
Sarah Mitchell covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]