Despite a second-half rally, Minnesota (12-6, 2-4) dropped a 76-60 decision to Ohio State (14-6, 5-2) at sold-out Value City Arena in Columbus on Saturday night. The loss left Minnesota coach Tubby Smith one victory short of his 400th career win for the third consecutive game.
Ohio State senior guard Jamar Butler led all scorers with 27 points and also dished out nine assists. The Buckeyes’ Evan Turner chipped in 17 points while freshman center Kosta Koufas added 15. Dan Coleman led the Gophers with 14 points.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 19-3 lead midway through the opening half on the strength of Turner’s 11 early points and the Gophers starting 1-15 shooting from the floor. Minnesota finished the half only 30.3% (10-for-33) from the field.
Minnesota parlayed pressure defense and improved shooting to trim OSU’s early lead to a mere three points with 13:16 remaining. Senior guard Lawrence McKenzie scored seven of his 10 points during a 16-6 Minnesota run early in the second half that finished with two Jonathan Williams free throws and the Buckeyes clinging to a slim 44-41 advantage.
The Buckeyes would extend their lead on the strength of a technical foul called on the Minnesota bench that followed a questionable traveling call on the Gophers’ Travis Busch. The foul occurred in the midst of an 8-0 Buckeye run.
Although Butler was assessed his own technical foul a few minutes later, the Buckeyes’ transition offense and free throw shooting were too much for the Gophers down the stretch. Koufas was 8 for 8 from the foul line in the second half to help OSU ice the victory.
“It wasn’t a pretty game for us, but we fought hard,” coach Tubby Smith said after the game. “We were fortunate that it was a seven-point game with seven minutes to go.”
Damian Johnson added eight points, six rebounds and five steals for the Gophers. Lawrence Westbrook led Minnesota with seven rebounds, while Busch collected three rebounds in a career-high 13 minutes.
The Gophers stay on the road and travel to Michigan (5-14, 1-6) on Thursday to take on the Wolverines in a 6:00 CT tip at Crisler Arena.