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.

Archie Miller a good hire at Indiana, but his promotion to the big time comes with big-time expectations

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Archie Miller a good hire at Indiana, but his promotion to the big time comes with big-time expectations

Archie Miller is the new Indiana head basketball coach, and while that gives Indiana the big splash it wanted for Tom Crean's successor, it remains to be seen whether it will please the Indiana fan base and its monster-sized expectations.

Miller is a great get for the Hoosiers, a guy who's taken the Dayton Flyers to four straight NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2014, a round the Hoosiers themselves haven't reached in 15 years. Miller has Big Ten experience, a former Thad Matta assistant at Ohio State, and he has experience recruiting in Big Ten Country.

He's been in line for a promotion from the A-10 to a major-conference program for a couple years now, and he was one of the biggest names at that level that Indiana or any other major-conference program looking for a new coach could have snagged.

But weren't Indiana fans expecting Steve Alford to come back to Bloomington?

Keeping in line with the enormous expectations this fan base always seems to have for this program, the internet was hoping athletics director Fred Glass could woo the former Indiana star back to his alma mater, pry him away from the most tradition-rich program in the country to spearhead a rebuilding effort for the team that finished tied for 10th in the Big Ten standings this season.

Those hopes seemed pretty unrealistic from the beginning — though it is difficult to argue with the immense financial attractiveness any Big Ten program has — but a perfect example of the kind of expectations that await Miller.

Marquette is plenty of distance up the college-basketball ladder from Dayton, but it was Crean, too, who made a career leap to the Hoosiers almost a decade ago. Crean's nine-year tenure featured some program-saving digging out from the horrendous spot Kelvin Sampson left things in. It also featured two outright Big Ten championships and three seasons of 27 or more wins. But all that couldn't keep the crushing expectations off Crean's shoulders, and one season after he won a conference title in one of the toughest conference's in college hoops, he was out.

Crean's kind of success wasn't good enough at Indiana. Will Miller's be?

Of course there was inconsistency that accompanied Crean's winning. The Hoosiers were just two wins above .500 this season, the same thing that was true a season after Indiana earned a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament. The two winningest seasons during Crean's tenure were followed by years in which Indiana didn't make the NCAA tournament. Not the kind of trajectory a program expecting a national championship wants to see, hence his firing.

But that goes to show how tough the task is in Bloomington, not necessarily when it comes to building a winner but when it comes to pleasing the folks in this basketball-loving state.

That's Miller's job now, and there likely won't be too long of a honeymoon period. Miller won at the lower levels of college basketball, winning 102 games over the past four seasons, but the Big Ten is a different animal. Another former Matta assistant, John Groce, found that out over his five seasons at Illinois. After getting hired off a Sweet Sixteen run at Ohio, Groce made the NCAA tournament just once in his five seasons in Champaign, the reason for the Big Ten's other coaching change this offseason.

Miller comes to Indiana with a better resume than Groce brought to Illinois — the A-10 is a much better league on an annual basis than the MAC, and Miller did more consistent winning over a longer stretch — but with a similar challenge ahead of him. Illini fans soured on Groce relatively quick, with questions about his job status lingering for a couple of years before he was fired earlier this month. Certainly Crean was never free from questions about his job status during his time in Bloomington, not even getting them to go away with a Big Ten championship last season. Will Hoosier fans treat Miller any differently if a deep tournament run doesn't come in one of Miller's first few seasons?

Of course, that all comes with the territory of being a college basketball coach, and Miller knows that well from his time as a major-conference assistant and with his brother the head coach at Arizona. But now he has to live it every day.

"I don't think you come to Indiana if you don't want to live in the neighborhood," Miller said about the expectations during his introductory press conference Monday. "If you don't want to move into that neighborhood, then you shouldn't be here. If you like the neighborhood, then you come, and I think, like I've been at a high level at a lot of different spots. I've been with great people. I think I'm very confident that what we do works, and I'd like for the opportunity to try and make it work here.

"I think the Big Ten is an excellent league with great coaches to be with, to be against, and you're going to get better. They're going to make you better, and you're going to be better for it.

"To me, I know where we're at, and I know what the job is. That didn't waver me. I think more than anything, this is what you want if you love the game."

Miller is a great hire by Glass. It's time to find out if Indiana and its sky-high expectations make for a great landing spot for Miller.

Kansas mops the floor with another Big Ten team as Purdue bounced from NCAA tournament

Kansas mops the floor with another Big Ten team as Purdue bounced from NCAA tournament

Purdue was hands-down the best team in the Big Ten this season. But when it's all said and done at the end of this NCAA tournament, Kansas might be the best team in the country.

The Jayhawks proved to be just way too much for the Boilermakers in Thursday night's Sweet Sixteen matchup, using a monster second half to sprint away from the Big Ten regular-season champs and win by a 98-66 score.

Purdue's season came to an end with the loss, though it will be a memorable campaign, one that stretched to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010.

But much like it did this past weekend against Michigan State, Kansas exploded on a massive second-half run and went from a narrow lead to an gargantuan one in a hurry, flexing its muscles as perhaps the best team remaining in this tournament field.

The incredibly talented duo of Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson scorched the Boilers, combining for 41 points. But it was actually Devonte' Graham that along with Mason led the Jayhawks with 26 points.

Kansas shot 53.6 percent from 3-point range on the night, splashing home 15 of the 28 triples it hoisted.

Purdue's own player of the year candidate, Caleb Swanigan, helped the team stay alive in the early stages of the second half after a 20-7 run gave Kansas a seven-point lead at halftime. After an ugly first half for the Big Ten Player of the Year — six points, two rebounds, 1-for-2 from the field, four turnovers — Swanigan's third 3-pointer of the night cut the gap to just two about three and a half minutes into the second half.

But that's when the Jayhawks took off, putting together an eye-popping 31-9 run to turn that two-point advantage into a 24-point lead in little more than 10 minutes. At one point, Kansas scored eight straight to grab its first double-digit lead of the night, the capper to that burst a Jackson 3-pointer that seemed to end the game right then and there despite the ample amount of time remaining on the clock.

When it was all over, Kansas outscored Purdue 45-15 from that two-point deficit at 53-51.

Swanigan, despite that poor first half, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Vincent Edwards, who scored a combined 42 points in the first two games of this tournament, had himself an quiet night with just eight points.

Purdue shot 55.6 percent in the first half but just 31 percent over the game's final 20 minutes. The Boilers also turned the ball over 16 times, leading to a boatload of points for the Jayhawks.

The win advanced Kansas to the Elite Eight, where it will take on Oregon, which beat Purdue's conference-mate Michigan earlier Thursday night. The Jayhawks have been piling up the points in the tournament and became the first team to score 90 or more points in each of its first three tournament games in 22 years.

The loss brought an end to things for Purdue, which had a terrific season despite the blowout finish. The Boilers won the Big Ten title outright and made their third Sweet Sixteen under Matt Painter.