Minnesota keeps rolling as Ohio State doomed by slow start

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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.

Big Ten reportedly talking about expanding conference basketball schedule

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Big Ten reportedly talking about expanding conference basketball schedule

Conference play could be getting a bit longer in the Big Ten.

According to a Monday report from ESPN's Jeff Goodman, there are talks about expanding the Big Ten conference basketball schedule from 18 games to 20 games.

Commissioner Jim Delany told Goodman that while there hasn't been a vote among the league's coaches yet, there are ongoing discussions about lengthening conference play by a couple of games.

Conference play expanded a decade ago, when the number of league games jumped from 16 to 18 for the 2007-08 season.

In order for there to be enough days in between games for players, an expanded league schedule would mean the beginning of conference play coming earlier in December. Recently, conference play has typically started around New Year's. Of course, there will be a week earlier start to conference play this season with the Big Ten Tournament — at Madison Square Garden in New York — a week earlier than usual, wrapping a full week before Selection Sunday.

Similar moves have been made in football, with the Big Ten starting a nine-game conference slate last fall. It's meant league games in September — a no-no in the past — and this season will feature a conference matchup in the season's first week, when Indiana and Ohio State play on Aug. 31.

Expanding conference play in college basketball would have a similar effect as it has had on schedules in football. With fewer non-conference slots to fill, those games become more important to a team's NCAA tournament resume. It forces teams to schedule more high-profile opponents and eliminate games against small schools that generate little interest during the season's first couple months.

The ACC, a league that often runs neck and neck with the Big Ten in the debate over which is America's top basketball conference, announced it will be moving to a 20-game schedule last July, with that starting in the 2019-20 season.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo shared some thoughts on the subject with Goodman, saying he expects the move to happen.

"I personally see us going to a 20-game schedule," Izzo told Goodman. "I don't think there's any question it's going to happen — and I'm not overly against it."

Ohio State has its new head coach in Butler's Chris Holtmann

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Ohio State has its new head coach in Butler's Chris Holtmann

Ohio State found its next head basketball coach, going to one of Thad Matta's former employers to find the longtime coach's successor.

The school announced Friday morning that Butler head coach Chris Holtmann is the Buckeyes' new head coach.

Holtmann spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Butler, posting a 70-31 record and making NCAA tournament appearances in all three of those seasons, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in March. He was named the Big East Coach of the Year this past season.

Holtmann spent two seasons as an assistant at Ohio under former Illinois head coach John Groce, a former Matta assistant, before serving as the head coach at Gardner-Webb for three seasons. Holtmann left Gardner-Webb for an assistant-coaching job at Butler, though he was quickly promoted to interim head coach and then head coach in Indianapolis.

Holtmann takes over for Matta, who himself was the Butler head coach in the 2000-01 season before becoming the all-time wins leader at Ohio State. Matta's mostly successful tenure was ended earlier this week, when athletics director Gene Smith saw recruiting misses teaming with declining win totals to create a dip in Matta's success.

This week has been dominated by rumors and declarations of lack of interest from numerous candidates and possible candidates for the job. Xavier head coach Chris Mack and Creighton head coach Greg McDermott both made their decisions to stay at their current schools known via social media, and a report linking Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg to the job forced a no-interest comment from Hoiberg, too.

Despite those repeated "no thank yous," though, Ohio State is still seen to be one of the best jobs in college basketball thanks to one of the highest-profile athletics departments and one of the best conferences in the country, providing ample resources.

Recruiting will be a big expectation for Holtmann, as Matta's performance in that area dipped near the end of his tenure. The Buckeyes missed the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons, while Holtmann just took Butler to a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance, the highest in that program's history.