At times during No. 2 Ohio State's 67-64 win against No. 21 Minnesota on Sunday at Value City Arena in Columbus, it looked like the Buckeyes were prepared to run away from the Golden Gophers like they have so many other teams this season.
Ohio State (16-0, 3-00 led by as many as 18 points in the later stages of the game, but Tubby Smith's Minnesota team (12-4, 1-3) refused to go away. The Golden Gophers closed the game on a 27-12 run to narrow the deficit to three by the final minute and had a chance to tie the game with their final possession, but some tough Buckeye defense forced a partially blocked shot that fell short as time expired and Ohio State prevailed.
David Lightly led the Buckeyes in scoring with 19 points on 3-4 shooting from the perimeter. Jared Sullinger had another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds and guard Aaron Craft had a productive afternoon of the bench with 11 points and seven assists.Trever Mbakwe led the charge for Minnesota with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Al Nolen filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists and Rodney Williams added nine points. Leading scorer Blake Hoffarber had a tough day, limited to only seven points, off from a 13.8 point per game average. Hoffarber made only one 3-pointer on the afternoon, and the Gophers had a tough day from the perimeter as a team, too, hitting only 2-14 for 14%.
The Buckeyes were out rebounded 32-26 and out shot 42%-39% from the field, but managed to hold on nevertheless thanks in large part to a barrage of eight 3-pointers that rained down while the Gophers were struggling in the same area.
Ohio State now has another win over a ranked opponent to add to its resume for a No. 1 seed come tournament time. It will now enter an easier portion of the schedule as it faces Michigan on Wednesday, followed by Penn State and Iowa. All three teams are at .500 or worse in conference play.
Minnesota, on the other hand, will get no rest from tough competition as it travels to No. 10 Purdue on Wednesday, where the Gophers could be in danger of falling into a 1-4 hole in Big Ten play against a red hot Boilermaker squad.