Mo Walker’s free throw tied Minnesota and Ohio State at 21-21 with two minutes left in the first half, giving Gophers fans abroad hope of an upset.
The Buckeyes went on a 50-24 run to end the game with a 71-45 victory in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, handing the Gophers their eighth loss in the last 11 games.
Minnesota’s only lead was at 5-4 three minutes into the game, but the Gophers fell into the same trap they’ve set for themselves all season.
OSU’s Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, started off 1-for-6 from the field.
The junior finished 5-for-10, effectively burying an offensively inept Minnesota squad that scored 23 and 22 points in the first and second halves, respectively.
Minnesota received a much-needed boost from its bench, but the majority of its starters failed to produce points in any capacity.
Sophomore Andre Hollins and senior Trevor Mbakwe were the only starters to score a field goal, combining for 15 of the starters’ 20 points.
Austin Hollins added five points in free throws. Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman were scoreless.
For the first time this season, Minnesota’s top five was outscored by its bench, which finished with 25 points.
The Gophers’ bench made eight field goals, and the starters made six.
Once the offense fell apart, so did the defense, as Ohio State had only two turnovers in the second half.
Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Evan Ravenel and Shannon Scott had three steals each. Minnesota had three as a team.
The lack of offense, indicated by 29 percent shooting, was expounded by the Gophers’ 21 turnovers, a Big Ten-season high.
Minnesota seemed to have an inside advantage early, as Walker and Mbakwe bullied Ohio State’s post players to start the first half.
Walker looked like an early-game hero, coming off the bench and netting seven points and five rebounds in the first period — Big Ten-career highs in both categories.
But the sophomore’s only statistical contributions in the second half were three turnovers, adding to his career-high six turnovers in the game.
Mbakwe and Walker combined for 10 of the Gophers’ 21 turnovers.
Walker’s struggles followed Minnesota’s M.O. in the second half, as coach Tubby Smith’s team went 11 minutes without a field goal.
—Rodney Williams, who was questionable to play with a sore left shoulder, started but played eight minutes.
—Reserve Oto Osenieks tied his career high with 27 minutes and scored 10 points.
—The last time Austin Hollins didn’t score a field goal in a Big Ten game was Feb. 18, 2012.