Gophers Fall Short in Comeback Against OSU

The Gophers walked into Columbus, Ohio trying to win their second straight Big Ten game while the Buckeyes tried to remain unbeaten on the season. Minnesota fell behind early and were down big late in the game but battled back to give the Buckeyes of Ohio State their first scare of the season.

Game Recap

The game started with the Gophers getting down early, a deficit they never came back from. The closest Minnesota came to taking the lead was a 10-10 tie with 15 minutes left in the first half. The majority of the remaining game was all Buckeyes.

After a basket by Ralph Sampson at 7:24 that made the score 18-20, the Gophers didn't do much on either end of the floor the remainder of the half, going into the break with a score of 32-22 in favor of Ohio State.

The second half started similar to that of the first, with Ohio State keeping a hold of their lead. The Buckeyes went through some cold stretches in the second, letting the Gophers stay with about ten points until some quick scores by Ohio State gave them the lead by a score of 55-37 with over eight minutes left in the game. It looked as the though the Gophers were about to give up on the game but they slowly began to battle back.

Minnesota started playing better team basketball on the offensive end, passing the ball to the open guy for easy baskets. Al Nolen became more aggressive, attacking the hoop and creating opportunities for teammates. The Gophers brought the game back to 67-64 and after two missed free throws by Ohio State's Dalla Lauderdale, Minnesota had 16 seconds left to run a play to tie the game.

The obvious intent was to get Blake Hoffarber free for a three but the plan failed due to solid defense by Ohio State. Al Nolen was forced to dish to Austin Hollins who had his three point attempt blocked as time expired for a final score of 67-64 in favor of the Buckeyes. Although the Gophers did not win the game, they battled back and gave the Buckeyes quite a scare.

Inside the Game

Trevor Mbakwe looked to be the only Gopher who was in rhythm on Sunday. He ended the game with a team-high 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks while shooting an impressive eight out of ten from the free throw line. Mbakwe was all over the floor snagging rebounds and blocking shots, including a stuff of Buckeye freshman phenom Jared Sullinger. Mbakwe's play throughout the game was the one constant for the Gophers against the Buckeyes.

Part of Minnesota's scoring deficiency was poor shooting from deep. As a team, the Gophers were 2-for-14 for just 14.3% from behind the arc. Al Nolen was 0-for-5, Chip Armelin was 0-for-2 and Blake Hoffarber only put up four three-pointers and made just one. Part of the reason for these shots was an impressive man-to-man defense by the Buckeyes which neutralized the penetration and inside play of Minnesota, forcing the Gophers to put up deep shots as the shot clock was running out.

Freshman Jared Sullinger proved why he is considered one of the best freshmen in country by dropping 15 points and 12 boards. Sullinger showed off an impressive skill set which included athletic dunks, strong post moves and solid interior defense. Minnesota was the first time that Sullinger faced a team that could compete with his 6-foot-9, 280-pound frame and Sullinger delivered.

Senior David Lighty also played a huge role in the Buckeyes' victory. Lighty drove inside for points and made clutch 3-pointers. Lighty shot 7-for-13 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the line for a game-high 19 points. Historically, he has been a thorn in the side of the Gophers scoring an average 15.3 points in the past three meetings between the teams.

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