The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 21, 2013

Minnesota embarrassed by Ohio State

Associated Press

— Both the Minnesota Gophers and Ohio State basketball teams came into Value City Arena in desperate need of a win on Wednesday — but after a lethargic start for each, only one adopted a sense of urgency and found a way to snap out of it.

As a result, the Gophers lost a consecutive blowout, falling, 71-45, in a game in which Athletic Director Norwood Teague and Associate AD Mike Ellis sat courtside.

“We came out and got embarrassed by Ohio State,” Andre Hollins said. “You don’t want to lose like that, especially this time of year. This time of year, teams are playing their best basketball and we’re not playing our best basketball obviously. So we’ve got to turn it around.”

But Minnesota is having a tough time doing that in a single game, much less the season as a whole, which after eight losses in 11 games has careened off the tracks.

The Gophers (18-9, 6-8 Big Ten) have scored 53 points or fewer in each of their last four losses, failing to shoot greater than 38 percent in any of those. And turnovers — a problem since Game 1 — don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Minnesota had a season-high 24 against Ohio State.

The No. 18 Buckeyes (19-7, 9-5) didn’t look inspired at the start either, but in the second half they broke out of their early funk and quickly left the Gophers — who were similarly overwhelmed by Iowa on Sunday — in the dust.

Hollins was the only Gophers starter who scored more than four points, with Rodney Williams — who started despite a sore left shoulder — and Joe Coleman putting up zeros. Williams and Coleman each got two fouls quickly in the first half and finished with just eight and 12 minutes, respectively. Those performances hardly contended with Deshaun Thomas’ 19-point effort and the Buckeyes’ bench contributions from Shannon Scott (11 points, five assists) and LaQuinton Ross (10 points).

After going up by six at the break, Ohio State slowly but surely put the game away. The Gophers got within six with 13:31 to play, but from there, what existing offense the Gophers had managed badly stalled against the Buckeyes’ pressure.

“Once again, it was we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Oto Osenieks (10 points, five rebounds) said. “The pressure wasn’t that big from them — we’ve just got to take care of the ball.”

The Gophers went more than 10 minutes without a field goal as Ohio State went on an 18-3 run to go up 55-33. Thomas got to the line, Scott gave the Buckeyes a boost off the bunch, and the Gophers seemed helpless to do anything but watch — looking panicked against Ohio State’s tough defense, forcing shots at the end of the shot clock and handing the ball back to the defense.

As the minutes waned, coach Tubby Smith put in a mostly reserves and sat on the bench, head in his cupped hand.

“We’re not showing the mental toughness that we need to compete,” Smith said. “It’s not like we’re young or inexperienced, but we’re certainly playing that way.”

The Gophers kept it close through an ugly first half with backup center Mo Walker scoring seven of the final 11 points of the half. The Buckeyes created a little distance at the break, 28-23, after Aaron Craft hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer.

“They went on a run and we didn’t stop it in any way,” Walker said. “They just kept it going and pushed the lead out pretty far.”