With the return of leading scorer Jamison Battle on Thursday night, first-year coach Ben Johnson knew the Gophers men's basketball team had a better shot to hang with Big Ten- title contender Ohio State.

But it wasn't realistic for Battle to return to form right away against one of the league's toughest defenses. And the Gophers were no match for the No. 16 Buckeyes on the glass, giving up 20 offensive rebounds in a 75-64 loss in front of an announced crowd of 10,179 at Williams Arena.

"It didn't matter what lineup we had in there," Johnson said. "We just couldn't find a way to get the ball."

Battle, who led the Gophers with 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting, was a bit fatigued after being out with a non-COVID illness in Saturday's 68-65 victory over Rutgers at home.

The Gophers (11-6, 2-6 Big Ten) welcomed Battle and E.J. Stephens back into the starting lineup, but Johnson seemed helpless trying to find ways to counter arguably the toughest team physically in the Big Ten.

There was no denying E.J. Liddell near the basket. Liddell, who reached 1,000 career points, was an inside force with 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who finished with 27 second-chance points.

Gophers senior starting center Eric Curry, who leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game, missed his third straight game with a left ankle injury.

"There's still a lot more that I could've done," said Battle, who was 1-for-9 in the first half. "You've got to go out there and bring energy and I felt like I was lacking in that today. I've got to respond in the next game."

The Buckeyes (13-4, 6-2) were playing without starting guard Jamari Wheeler (foot). They also hadn't played since Jan. 18 after the Nebraska game was postponed, but the rust was minimized with their dominance on the boards.

"Our best zone offense at times was the glass," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. "We need to get better executing against the zone, but I thought we were able to get key rebounds."

Battle's only field goal in the opening period was a three-pointer to give the Gophers a two-point lead with just under three minutes left, but the Buckeyes took a 32-30 lead with 11 offensive rebounds in the half.

BOXSCORE: Ohio State 75, Gophers 64

The Gophers ranked 13th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (minus-8.6) entering the night, but they were beaten 48-22 on the glass Thursday.

Liddell, who had 14 points in the second half, was too active and powerful for Gophers backup big men Treyton Thompson and Danny Ogele. And starter Charlie Daniels was limited with foul trouble.

The 7-foot Thompson, who had five points and four rebounds in the first half, gave the Gophers length and an outside shooting threat at 7 feet, but several Buckeyes posts overpowered Thompson and his teammates for rebounds.

Battle tried to give his team a spark with 12 second-half points. His second shot fell to answer an early run in the second half by the Buckeyes, followed by five consecutive points to pull Minnesota within 40-35.

Sean Sutherlin had all 12 of his points in the second half. But after his career-high 32 points with eight threes against Rutgers, Payton Willis wasn't as aggressive in looking for his shot Thursday. He finished with 12 points and seven assists.

Battle's second three cut the Gophers' deficit to 52-46 near the 11-minute mark, but Ohio State's 6-0 run was fueled entirely by second-chance points from Liddell and 6-8, 245-pound Zed Key as the Buckeyes extended to a 12-point lead.

Liddell, Key and Kyle Young combined for 49 points and 27 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who won their first game at the Barn since 2015.

Johnson hopes Curry will be back to join Battle in the frontcourt Sunday at Wisconsin, but there might be more nights when the Gophers find themselves overmatched inside until they're at full strength.

"I told them before the game this would be probably the most physical team we played to date," Johnson said. "Sometimes you can say it all you want, but they've got to experience it."