The Ohio State Buckeyes erased a 10-point halftime deficit behind 19 points from junior forward Sam Thompson to take down the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 64-46. The Buckeyes picked up their third consecutive victory and have now won six out of their last seven.
Thompson came into Saturday evening's rematch against Minnesota averaging 7.1 points per game, but he has been shooting the basketball with much more confidence recently. With Ohio State trailing by 12 points early in the second half, Thompson and the Buckeyes ratcheted up the defense in a big way.
Ohio State went on a 17-0 run that was ignited by six quick points from senior leaders Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr, and highlighted by a breakaway, high-flying slam dunk from Thompson. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross capped the comeback with a tough finish at the rim to give Ohio State its first lead of the game with 14:27 to play in the second half.
Thompson then began to take over with his athleticism, scoring 10 consecutive points for Ohio State. After nailing a deep three ball in the corner, Thompson caught one of his patented lobs from Aaron Craft to put the Buckeyes up 45-35.
Ohio State had to battle back against the Gophers following one of its worst halves of the entire season. The Buckeyes came out missing open threes and turning the ball over early in the first half.
The Gophers' zone defense gave Ohio State all types of headaches. The Buckeyes continued to shoot the ball poorly from three-point range, finishing just 3-of-14 from deep.
After pulling within one point at 17-16 in the first half, the Gophers went on a 7-0 run capped by an Andre Hollins corner three-pointer. Even with Minnesota center Elliott Eliason picking up two early fouls, the Buckeyes struggled to defend the paint.
The Buckeyes shot just 27 percent (6-of-22) from the field in the first half and trailed 28-18 going into halftime.
Head coach Thad Matta told Big Ten Network analyst Jim Jackson that his message was simple for his team in the locker room.
"You have to play better," said Matta.
And they did.
Ohio State came out in the second half on the run. Solid defense led to easy offense on the other end. The Buckeyes solved the Gophers' zone by not playing against the zone. They instead got out in transition and attacked the rim with reckless abandon.
The Buckeyes shot 57 percent (17-of-30) from the floor in the second half and outscored Minnesota by an astounding 28-point margin. Ohio State scored as many points in the second half as Minnesota scored all game (46).
Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu led the way for Minnesota in scoring with 13 points and 12 points respectively. Hollins nailed all three attempts he had from three-point range.
The Gophers just could not muster much against the hyperactive defense of Ohio State in the second half.
Junior center Amir Williams came up big for Ohio State on the defensive end, finishing with seven points and four huge blocks. One block emphatically denied Minnesota's Austin Hollins at the rim.
Source: Big Ten Network
This win marks the first time Ohio State came back after trailing by 10 or more points at halftime since Jan. 12, 2010, against Purdue.
The Buckeyes next face Penn State in a rematch Thursday night on ESPN2.
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