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.

Wisconsin loses for third time in four games as Ohio State stages upset

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AP

Wisconsin loses for third time in four games as Ohio State stages upset

Two weeks ago, we were all shocked to see Wisconsin boxed out of the NCAA selection committee's top 16 seeds.

Well, it seems like maybe they knew something we didn't.

The Badgers, who not long ago looked like the Big Ten's best hope when it came to making a long tourney run and competing for a national championship, continued their recent slide Thursday night with a 83-73 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, who entered with the second-worst record in the conference.

The loss was Wisconsin's third in its last four games, a noteworthy skid for a team that lost just once between Thanksgiving and Feb. 11.

The woes of back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Michigan seemed done away with when the Badgers knocked off a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins by double digits last weekend. But Ohio State dominated Wisconsin from start to finish Thursday, the Badgers' defense taking an uncharacteristic beating at the hands of what's been an inconsistent Buckeyes team this season.

Thad Matta's group had little trouble doing everything it wanted. Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field on the night, including a stellar 10-for-16 mark from 3-point range and a terrific 23-for-27 effort from the free-throw line. Four Buckeyes scored in double figures, including C.J. Jackson with 18 points and JaQuan Lyle, who had 17 on the game and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

While the Badgers surpassed the 70-point threshold they couldn't reach in those defeats against Northwestern and Michigan, the offense left a lot to be desired Thursday, as well. Wisconsin got 27 points from Bronson Koenig but a mere four from Ethan Happ, who only had six rebounds, and just seven from Nigel Hayes. The Badgers shot a respectable enough 43.9 percent from the field on the game but an ugly 37.5 percent in the first half, a period in which they mustered just 31 points. The Buckeyes at one point had a lead as big as 20. An 8-0 Badger run to close the game prevented the scoreboard from reflecting the blowout this one was for most of the second half.

A win would've kept Wisconsin tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten standings, but instead the Boilermakers reside there by themselves with the Badgers relegated to second place, just a game ahead of the aforementioned Terps.

What happens next for Wisconsin remains a bit of a mystery. There are undoubtedly offensive issues, and those are nothing new considering we were discussing them back when the Badgers were still on their winning streak, when they picked up concerning overtime wins against Minnesota, Rutgers and Nebraska. Wisconsin needs to be sharp on the defensive end to win, and obviously it has been more often than not this season. After all, Greg Gard's team still has 22 wins overall and 11 victories in league play.

But three losses in four games is a reason to think a lengthy tournament run might not be possible. And how long might this stumble last? Three remaining regular-season games feature opponents much stronger than Ohio State: Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota, which is red hot currently on a six-game winning streak.

Big Ten Talk Podcast: Northwestern stumbling, Illinois trending up and the last week and a half of the Big Ten regular season

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USA TODAY

Big Ten Talk Podcast: Northwestern stumbling, Illinois trending up and the last week and a half of the Big Ten regular season

In the latest episode of the Big Ten Talk Podcast, CSN's Vinnie Duber and Matt Maniscalco discuss Illinois' win over Northwestern, the improved play of the Illini and the offensive struggles of the Wildcats.

Plus, a look at the hottest and coldest teams in the Big Ten — looking at you, Minnesota and Indiana — and a round of fact or fiction featuring coaches on the hot seat, NCAA tournament hopes and who will win the Big Ten regular-season title.

Take a listen below.