First-Half Drought Proves Costly in 78-68 Loss to #6 OSU

Go Gophers! Julian Welch had 11 points and a career-high 11 assists in the loss to Ohio State.
Go Gophers!
Julian Welch had 11 points and a career-high 11 assists in the loss to Ohio State.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 14, 2012

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MINNEAPOLIS - Sixth-ranked Ohio State used a 20-0 run midway through the first half to pull away from Minnesota during its 78-68 victory before 13,245 at Williams Arena on Tuesday night.

With the win, Ohio State improved to 22-4 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten, while Minnesota lost for the third time in four games to fall to 17-9 overall and 5-8 in the conference.

The Buckeyes' run turned a tie game into a 32-12 lead, as Minnesota failed to score for more than seven minutes. Minnesota trailed by as many as 21 points, but fought back to pull within single digits several times in the second half.

But the Gophers never got closer than eight points, as Ohio State had an answer every time Minnesota seemed to gain some momentum.

The Buckeyes' duo of William Buford and Jared Sullinger proved to be too much for the Gophers. Buford led all scorers with 24 points, while tying Sullinger for the team lead with eight rebounds and dishing out five assists. Sullinger finished with 23 points for the Buckeyes.

Minnesota was led by junior forward Rodney Williams, who made 8-of-11 field goals and 5-of-7 free throws to finish with a career-high 21 points. Williams also led all players with nine rebounds, just missing his third double-double of the season.

Junior guard Julian Welch also barely missed a double-double, finishing with 11 points to go along with a career-best nine assists and five rebounds. Freshman forward Oto Osenieks came off the bench to give Minnesota a spark late in the first half, tallying a career-high 10 points, while sophomore guard Austin Hollins also had 10 points.

Both teams started by making their first three attempts from the field, with neither team missing until senior forward Ralph Sampson III's layup attempt rolled off the rim almost four minutes into the game.

Buford scored the first seven points for the Buckeyes, giving them a 7-4 lead before a three-pointer by Austin Hollins tied the score.

Sullinger scored three points to put OSU up, 10-7, but freshman guard Andre Hollins scored on a layup to cut it to one point. Then, after a Deshaun Thomas layup gave the Buckeyes a 12-9 lead, Andre Hollins made a trey to tie the score at 12-12 with 14:28 remaining in the half.

But Buford reached 10 points in the game by answering with a three, which began the Buckeyes' 20-0 run, as Ohio State stretched its lead to 32-12 with 7:18 left.

Williams finally scored on a layup with 6:53 remaining, snapping a seven-minute, 35-second scoring drought for the Gophers.

But the Buckeyes responded with a 5-2 run to push their lead to 37-16 at the 3:56 mark, before Minnesota fired up the crowd with a 12-1 run late in the half.

Osenieks scored five points during the run, including a three-pointer with 0:49 left before the half to cut the deficit to 10 points, 38-28. OSU took a 40-28 lead at the half.

Minnesota shot the ball well in the first half, making 10-of-21 (.476) attempts, but the Gophers turned it over 11 times and the Buckeyes scored 13 points off those miscues. Buford and Sullinger each tallied 12 first-half points, while Osenieks came off the bench to lead the Gophers with seven points.

Ohio State began the second half by scoring the first five points to quickly widen its advantage to 17 points, 45-28.

Williams started a 6-2 run by the Gophers with a dunk to cut OSU's lead back to 13 points, but the Buckeyes quickly pushed the margin back to 16 points.

Williams and Welch scored, and Osenieks recorded a three-point play to get Minnesota back within nine points, 53-44, with 12:02 left. But OSU's lead hovered between eight and 14 points for the rest of the night, as the Buckeyes won their fifth-straight game against the Gophers and their second-straight in Minneapolis.

The Gophers return to the road for their next game, traveling to Evanston, Ill., to face Northwestern on Saturday night. Tipoff at Welsh-Ryan Arena is set for 6:00 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com