Pregame: OSU’s Thomas provides a nightmare matchup

Andrew Krammer

Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas provides a matchup problem for any team in the country.

For Minnesota, a squad with shoddy perimeter defense, Thomas provides a nightmare.

The Big Ten’s leading scorer (20.1ppg), Thomas is also 12th in the conference in three-point shooting percentage (38.5%) and is the only forward in the top-15 that has taken more than 100 attempts from deep.

With forward Rodney Williams likely benched with a sore shoulder, the Gophers will employ a combination of center Elliott Eliason and forward Trevor Mbakwe to defend Thomas.

Both Eliason (6’11”) and Mbakwe (6’8”) have a height advantage on the six-foot-seven-inch Thomas, but lack the quickness to run down Thomas as the Buckeyes run plays to get him open on the perimeter.

Opponents’ three-point percentages:

Jan. 29 vs. Nebraska: 9-for-14 (63%)
Feb. 3 vs. Iowa: 7-for-23 (30%)
Feb. 6 at MSU: 9-for-18 (50%)
Feb. 10 vs. Illinois: 11-for-23 (48%)
Feb. 14 vs. Wisconsin: 7-for-28 (25%)
Feb. 17 at Iowa: 5-for-9 (55%)

Home or away, the Gophers give up ridiculous percentages from deep. But when Minnesota travels, its perimeter defense sags enough to let forwards light it up.

Indiana forward Christian Watford, the Big Ten’s leader in three-point percentage (49%), went for 15 points and nine rebounds on 2-for-3 from deep in the Gophers’ Jan. 12 loss at Assembly Hall.

Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire, a 35-percent shooter from deep, had a 16-point, eight-rebound outing on Jan. 23 in a home win over Minnesota. Swopshire shot 6-for-10 from the field, 1-for-2 beyond the arc.

Even Illinois forward Tyler Griffey, a 32-percent three-point shooter, shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in the Illini's 57-53 win at Williams Arena on Feb. 10.

Thomas is the Buckeyes’ premier scorer, so it should be no surprise when the junior takes 15-plus shot attempts tonight. But the Gophers will need his 5-for-23 from deep across the last six games to continue.

When you combine Minnesota’s 1-5 Big Ten road record with Thomas’ lack of foul trouble – the Gophers could be in for a long night.