Jekyll and Hyde Buckeyes Win at Minnesota
By Ben Axelrod
Throughout the 2011-12 season, the No. 6 Ohio State men’s basketball team (22-4, 10-3) has been self-admittedly bi-polar from game-to-game.
On Tuesday night, both sides of the team’s split personality were on display during the Buckeyes’ 78-68 road victory over Minnesota (17-9, 5-8).
With senior guard William Buford scoring more points in the first 70 seconds than he did throughout OSU’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday, the Buckeyes got off to a dominating start against the Hoosiers, using a 20-0 run to take a 32-12 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
OSU’s fast start enabled coach Thad Matta to delve deep into his bench and give playing time to 10 players before halftime- a stark difference from three nights ago when just seven players logged minutes for Matta.
But before the Buckeyes could run away from the Gophers and rest their regular rotation players before a looming rivalry game with potential conference title implications, their other personality showed up.
Four missed shots- all 3-point attempts- enabled Minnesota to embark on an 11-0 run that helped the Gophers head into halftime trailing by a more manageable 12-point deficit.
The Buckeyes looked poised to pull away again after Buford hit a jumper to put OSU up by 16 points with 15 minutes remaining, but the Gophers kept fighting thanks to a 17-point second half effort from forward Rodney Williams. The Minnesota forward finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, and a couple of highlight reel dunks, and helped the Gophers cut OSU’s lead to nine points with three minutes remaining in the game.
Williams’ effort, however, wasn’t enough to overcome the Buckeyes’ star power on Tuesday night.
Coming off one of the worst performances of his career, Buford scored 24 points, sophomore forward Jared Sullinger added in 23, and sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas added 12- including a dunk in the final minute that all but sealed the OSU victory.
The win over the Gophers keeps the Buckeyes in the front and center of the Big Ten race, where they currently hold a half game lead over Michigan State (20-5, 9-3). A share of that conference lead could be on the line on Saturday when OSU will travel to Ann Arbor to face No. 17 Michigan (19-7, 9-4). In their first meeting this season, the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines by a score of 64-49.
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