Buckeyes Bounce Back, Sink Slumping Gophers
By John Porentas
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-9, 6-8 Big Ten)) and Ohio State Buckeyes (19-7, 9-5 Big Ten) had a little something in common when their matchup in Columbus began. They had very little in common when it ended.
Ohio State was drubbed by 22 at Wisconsin three days ago. The Gophers took it on the chin to the tune of 21 point loss at Iowa on the same day. These were two squads with recent big bruises and in need of win.
Both teams needed to right the ship, and only one of them could. When the dust settled, Ohio State's ship was very much upright as a result of a 71-45 win. The Gopher ship could be seen slowly sinking beneath a wave of turnovers and poor shooting.
OSU and Minnesota have both struggled at the offensive end of the court, and while OSU's offensive effort was not exactly a work of art, it was at least serviceable. The Buckeyes shot 40 percent from the floor, shot 88 percent (16-18) from the free throw line, and committed just 11 turnovers.
The Gophers, on the other hand, were a total mess. They shot 29 percent from the field and turned it over more times than the griddle cook in a diner making pancakes in the morning. A whopping 24 turnovers led to 20 OSU fast break points and 26 points off turnovers. OSU's recipe for success on the offensive end had more to do with their energy and hustle on the defensive end than it did with their offense.
scraps for possession with two Gophers
Photo by Jim Davidson
"We played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We played with a lot of heart, and we played great defense," said OSU forward Deshaun Thomas who led all scorers with 19 points.
"We held them to 29 percent for the whole game. That' what Ohio State basketball is about."
According to sophomore point guard Shannon Scott, the Buckeyes had rediscovered what was missing in their embarrassing loss to Wisconsin.
"This game we had a lot of energy. Against Wisconsin we were just out there, we weren't really doing our job and being ourselves. We were just playing basketball. This game we came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm like coach wanted us to do and we were able to feed off that," said Scott.
Feed they did, but they couldn't put much distance between themselves and the Gophers, at least not in the first half. The Buckeyes were in control most of the way in that period, and led by six at 29-23 at the intermission, but could not put much distance between themselves and the visitors. In the second half however, the result of all that defensive pressure finally paid off.
The Buckeyes put together a 15-0 run early in the second half to take the score from 38-31 to 53-31 and for all intents and purposes end the game. The run was marked by eight Minnesota turnovers and finally got the OSU offense going.
"Coach (Matta) said they were tired," said Thomas.
"They were getting tired. We were stopping them, so now we've got to punch it down their throat, and that's what we did.
"We got out on transition, hit a couple of threes, got to the free throw line, and that was good for the team."
It was good for the Buckeyes, but death for the Gophers.
"When things are not going well and you're making bad mistakes, it's like a storm that builds on you," said Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith.
Once the Buckeyes got their offense going just a little, the rout was on. OSU led by as many as 30 points with 2:05 remaining to play.
OSU got double-digit scoring from Thomas with 19, Scott with 11 and LaQuinton Ross with 10. Scott also added five assists, three blocked shots and three steals in what was one of his best overall games to date as a Buckeye.
Minnesota got 11 points from guard Andre Hollins and 10 from Oto Osenieks.
OSU will be back in action this Sunday when they host Michigan State. The game begins at 4:00 PM and will be televised by CBS.