Minnesota keeps rolling as Ohio State doomed by slow start

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USA TODAY

Minnesota keeps rolling as Ohio State doomed by slow start

How do you know Minnesota is for real?

Even with Nate Mason having a frigid night from the field, the Gophers found plenty of scoring to make up for the guy who was averaging better than 20 points a game in three previous Big Ten contests.

But it was Ohio State's nightmarish offensive start that doomed the Buckeyes and sent the Gophers to a 78-68 victory, their 15th win of the season.

Mason finished with 12 points but was just 2-for-12 from the field, doing most of his damage at the free-throw line, where he was 7-for-9. Akeem Springs made up for Mason's off night, though, with a stellar 18 points, 15 of those coming on five makes from 3-point range. Freshman Amir Coffey poured in a team-high 19 points, with Reggie Lynch adding 10 points.

Ohio State couldn't make a shot to open the game and quickly found itself trailing Minnesota by double digits. Back-to-back triples by Coffey and Springs made it 16-3 before eight minutes had gone by, and the gap was massive at 26-8 with nine and a half minutes still to go before halftime. The Buckeyes chipped away and had the deficit back to single digits with about two minutes till half, but by the time 20 minutes were up, Ohio State had just a 30.3-percent shooting mark, had turned the ball over eight times, missed four free throws and were blocked seven times.

After halftime, things tightened up considerably as the Buckeyes found their shot. Ohio State shot a red-hot 51.6 percent from the field in the second half, but one thing remained constant: Every time the Buckeyes closed within three, four or five points, the Gophers knocked down a big shot to stretch the lead back out. Ohio State spent the entire final 20 minutes playing catch up and never caught up.

Jae'Sean Tate makes a layup to get it down to four, Springs hits a 3 to stretch it back to seven. Marc Loving hits a 3 to get it four, four straight points from Mason and Springs to make it eight. JaQuan Lyle gets it to four with a bucket, Lynch gets a basket to make it six. And so it went throughout.

The closest Ohio State got was three points, 62-59, with four minutes to go. But Jordan Murphy hit two free throws, Mason followed with his second made shot of the game, and after a Buckeyes free throw, Springs knocked down a triple to make it a nine-point game with two minutes left.

The teams ended up shooting nearly the same: 41 percent for Minnesota, 40.6 percent for Ohio State. The Gophers made nine 3-pointers compared to just five for the Buckeyes, but Minnesota took an awful lot of 3-point shots that didn't fall, 9-for-24 on the night. The difference came at the free-throw line, where Ohio State was just 11-for-21, missing 10 shots from the stripe. Minnesota was a much for efficient and productive 19-for-27.

The Gophers got 20 points from their bench — huge on Mason's off night — and blocked a jaw-dropping 12 shots.

Tate finished as the high man in the game with 20 points. Ohio State got double-digit scoring performances from Trevor Thompson (15 points) and Lyle (12 points).

The win bumped Minnesota up to 15-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. Two straight road games follow over the next week, with a Wednesday trip to Michigan State and a Saturday visit to Penn State.

The loss dropped Ohio State to a winless 0-3 in the Big Ten and 10-6 overall. The Buckeyes play at Wisconsin on Thursday and at home against Michigan State next Sunday.

Urban Meyer: Big Ten is 'night and day what it was' when he took over at Ohio State

Urban Meyer: Big Ten is 'night and day what it was' when he took over at Ohio State

The Big Ten finally got a heaping helping of national respect last season, when three of the conference's teams finished in the top six of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

It had been a bit of a challenge in previous seasons — and not always without merit — for the league to get talked about in the same way the national media loves talking about the SEC. But now the conference boasts some of the healthiest programs in college football and some of the most attention-grabbing head coaches in the sport.

Certainly Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes fall into those categories. But Ohio State is joined in the highest levels of national conversation by Jim Harbaugh's Michigan program and Paul Chryst's stellar work at Wisconsin. That's without mentioning the reigning conference champion Penn State Nittany Lions and Mark Dantonio's oft-contending Michigan State program.

With the Big Ten now annually having several national championship-caliber teams, Meyer can't help but notice how the league and the league's status has changed since he took the head-coaching gig in Columbus ahead of the 2012 season.

"It's night and day what it was," Meyer told CSN's Pat Boyle at Monday's Golf.Give.Gala in St. Charles, hosted by Michael Phelps and Jason Day. "And I was actually shocked at the disrespect and the lack of respect that the Big Ten had. I never looked at that. I grew up here.

"There's a lot of reasons why that's happened. The schools have hired very good coaches, the recruiting is off the chart now compared to the way it used to be. There's a lot of credit. And you better show up every week now, and it wasn't that way when I first got there in 2012."

Meyer's Buckeyes are again expected to be in the championship hunt this fall after reaching the College Football Playoff in two of the past three seasons and winning the whole thing to cap the 2014 campaign.

Certainly, though, the conference's powerhouses aren't the only programs that have contributed to the league's health as a whole. Coaching hires since Meyer got to Ohio State include former NFL head coaches in Lovie Smith and Mike Riley, as well as high-profile up-and-comers like James Franklin and P.J. Fleck.

Add those names to the already-existing leaders like Meyer, Dantonio and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, and the coaching is as strong as any conference in the country.

On the latest episode of 'Harbaugh Being Harbaugh,' Michigan football coach helps deliver a calf

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USA TODAY

On the latest episode of 'Harbaugh Being Harbaugh,' Michigan football coach helps deliver a calf

Harbaugh gonna Harbaugh, guys. That's just how the Michigan football coach rolls.

You might remember that Jim Harbaugh has an endorsement deal with a milk brand — because of course he does — and stars in a commercial for fairlife milk in which he breaks down the tape of his wife, Sarah, pouring some fairlife milk for the couple's kids.

You can watch it right here. It's actually pretty funny.

Well, as part of Harbaugh's relationship with fairlife, he got to visit Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, a spot you know well if you've ever traveled down I-65 en route to Indianapolis.

While visiting the farm, Harbaugh got his hands dirty — or maybe not, he seems to be wearing gloves — while helping to deliver a calf.

Yeah, that's right. Jim Harbaugh helped deliver a calf.

This comes as little surprise to those who know Harbaugh's antics well. He's always up to something ridiculous, be it reciting lines from "Gladiator" in Rome, shouting for peanuts in the middle of a mall or starring in a Michigan-themed rap video.

While Harbaugh's known for asking his players, "Who's got it better than us?" he can definitely answer with confidence "Who has more fun than he does?"

Keep it coming, coach.