The Buckeyes cruised to a 73-62 win over visiting Minnesota before a crowd of 15,135 at VCA. The game was a match-up of the last two winless teams in Big Ten play and OSU snapped a three-game losing streak.
"We needed to win this game," said OSU coach Jim O'Brien, whose team improved to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play. "If we didn't win this game, we would have been 0-3. That is the predicament Minnesota now finds themselves in. We fortunate this is a season where everybody is beating everybody else. If we can win the game (against Indiana) on Tuesday, we will be back to 2-2 and be in the middle of it.
"We have to do well here at home. We know it will be more difficult on the road."
OSU improved to 19-6 under O'Brien when they have a week off to prepare. And quite a week it was as the Buckeyes stewed over a 64-47 loss at Penn State last Saturday. In that game, OSU was 0 for 13 on three-pointers. Today, the Buckeyes were 7 of 13 (53.8 percent) on three-point tries.
Terence Dials just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds to lead OSU.
"Coach installed plays for me and Velimir to be isolated on the block," said Dials, who was 6 of 9 from the floor. "We'll live with shots I take one on one at the basket. That was our game plan today. It felt pretty good because I had been a little slump. Getting a couple easy baskets always helps your confidence out."
Tony Stockman added 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, while J.J. Sullinger had 13 points and seven rebounds. Velimir Radinovic chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
O'Brien said former players Ronnie Stokes and Clark Kellogg asked to speak to the team this past week. The lectures worked as the Buckeyes, except for 20 turnovers, controlled much of the game. They shot 50 percent (22 of 44) from the floor, got 22 points at the foul line (on 73.3 percent shooting) and outrebounded the Gophers 37-25.
"The past three games were disappointing for us," Sullinger said. "The coaches challenged us and it started with practice. We had some former players come in and talk to us. Everyone was encouraging us to try and get after it in practice and carry it over to the games."
The Buckeyes succeeded in keeping Minnesota's dynamic freshman Kris Humphries in check. Humphries came in averaging Big Ten highs in points (22.8) and rebounds (10.4). Humphries had to rally by scoring eight points in the final five minutes to finish with a game-high 19 points. He also had eight rebounds. Ben Johnson added 11 points for the Golden Gophers (8-7, 0-3).
"Just think had bad it would have been if we hadn't come here and team bonded," joked Minnesota coach Dan Monson, who brought his team to Columbus a day early on this road trip. "We are just the textbook team that is struggling right now.
"It wasn't a pretty win for them because I think they can still play better than that. But they were able to persevere more than we were."
OSU played, perhaps, its best half of the season in the first 20 minutes. OSU bolted out to a 14-8 lead as Sullinger had a jam off a pass from Terence Dials breaking the press, Radinovic had a two-hand jam off a Terence Dials feed and, finally, Dials completed a three-point play off a feed from Nick Dials with 14:25 left in the half.
But Minnesota rallied with seven straight, capped by a Michael Bauer layup off an OSU turnover, to grab a 15-14 lead with 12:20 left in the half. Humphries gave Minnesota a 19-17 lead with a hook off an offensive rebound with 9:31 left.
However, OSU outscored Minnesota 17-6 to close the half. Ricardo Billings got it started with a three-pointer off a feed from Stockman. Matt Sylvester then tallied off a running one-hander. Sullinger hit back-to-back three-pointers from the top of the key, followed by one from the corner by Stockman off a Brandon Fuss-Cheatham feed to put OSU up 34-22 with 34 seconds left in the half. But Bauer's three with 28 seconds left cut the halftime lead to 34-25.
Minnesota got the lead down to two at 37-35 after Johnson reeled off eight straight points. O'Brien called timeout with 17:27 left and the Buckeyes settled down, going on a 12-4 run to expand the lead.
"We called timeout and were able to recover," O'Brien said. "We weren't able to recover in the game (at Penn State)."
Nick Dials, who finished with seven points and four assists, hit a three-pointer and Fuss-Cheatham completed a three-point play during that run as the Buckeyes got back on top 49-39 with 11:51 left.
Terence Dials then scored seven straight points for the Buckeyes as they took a 57-46 edge with 7:48 left. Radinovic completed a three-point play for a 63-51 lead with 2:27 left. Stockman made a driving jumper in the lane to give OSU its biggest lead at 70-55 with 1:00 left.
Fuss-Cheatham finished with six points, Sylvester had four and Billings and Ivan Harris each had three.
* OSU defeated Minnesota at home for the fifth straight time.
* This marked just the third time this year OSU has placed four players in double figures. (It also happened against Samford and Furman). This was also just the fifth time this season OSU shot 50 percent or better.
* Twenty-four past OSU captains were recognized at halftime.
* Ohio State hosts Indiana Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN). The Hoosiers were 7-6 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play before hosting Northwestern Saturday afternoon.