Leading 33-32 at halftime of a physical affair in Minneapolis, Thad's boys left their intensity and focus in the locker room while the Gophers turned up the heat unleashing a 23-4 run before coasting to a 73-62 victory.
The second half started good for OSU as David Lighty connected on a nifty reverse layup but quickly went downhill as the Buckeyes got whistled for a 10 second violation followed by Lighty smashing into Colton Iverson with :01 on the Minnesota shot clock. An Evan Turner baseline jumper would stretch the Buckeye lead to 37-34 but then the wheels officially fell off. A sampling of the train wreck includes:
- A driving ET gets swatted and hit in the eye triggering a 5 on 4 possession capped by a Blake Hoffarber triple.
- Dallas Lauderdale missing a dunk on the following trip.
- OSU defense allows back to back offensive boards before a kickout to Al Nolen for three.
- Dallas launches two grenades from the stripe and miraculously makes one of two.
- The OSU defense fails to identify Hoffarber again for a three.
- OSU turns it over, commits a foul and Minny makes both to stretch run to 11-1.
- OSU turns it over again and Hoffarber hits another triple as Dallas inexplicably leaves him alone on the wing. Obviously, Hoff wasn't his assignment but you just can't leave him uncontested three looks. Run is now 14-1.
- OSU commits another 10 second shot clock violation.
- Turner crosses half court and picks up his dribble against a trap for what felt like the 5th time in the half. He's called for walking. It's OSU's 4th straight turnover.
- Dallas gets fouled and assaults the rim with two free throw attempts. One find the hole.
- OSU gives up back to back layup's in between two missed triple tries of their own. Run swells to 18-4.
- The defense again fails to identify Hoffarber and he promptly buries another trey.
- Turner again picks up his dribble just beyond half court and travels. Hoffarber gets fouled at the other end and hits both free throws. 23-4 run over. Gophers lead 57-41 with 10:49 left but the game is over.
The mental breakdowns on defensive rotations were brutal and Minny capitalized hitting 7/12 second half triple tries, six from Hoffarber, a guy they knew they couldn't leave open. Sprinkle in 17 turnovers for the game and 38% shooting in the 2nd half including 0/7 on 3FGA's and this game was probably more lopsided than the final score indicates.
The trend of suffering a long scoring drought once again plagued the Buckeyes made exactly one field goal in over eight minutes courtesy of a Turner layup during the decisive Gopher run. Turner would score eight straight points to keep OSU on the outskirts of being in the game but they would get no closer than eight points (70-62) with :33 left but it was obviously over at that point.
Ohio State looked strong in the first half as the teams exchanged runs, and smack talk. Minnesota used a 10-2 run to take an early 13-8 lead but OSU countered shortly thereafter with a 12-3 spurt capped by a Bill Buford three to build a 26-19 lead. Turner was the star of the blitz burying a trey then actually "catch-blocking" a shot before feeding Bill Buford on the break.
Showing no ill effects from his fall, Turner did a little of everything in the first half scoring 5 points to go with four boards, five assists, two steals and two swats. Buford added 10 points and Lighty 11 including a nice tip in giving OSU the 33-32 lead. A little dust up occurred near mid court near the end of the half and while Minnesota brought that intensity to the second half, the Buckeyes didn't and the roof collapsed in the second stanza.
Turner logged 38 healthy minutes and led the Bucks with 19 points (9/16), eight boards, seven assists and four steals but his curious decisions to pick up his dribble contributed to four turnovers. Buford added 17 (7/17) and four boards but coughed it up three times. Four fouls saddled Lighty for much of the Gopher run and he finished with 15 points and three boards with another three turnovers before fouling out. He hit 6/7 shots but his typical 2/5 clankfest from the stripe was costly. Lauderdale was also 2/5 from the line and he pulled down four boards playing just 20 minutes. Jon Diebler was back to ghost status hitting just 2/9 including 1/8 from downtown. The athletic Gopher wings did a nice job of getting a hand in his face though I did like seeing Diebler at least try and shot fake and dribble for pull up jumpers even if the results weren't there.
His counterpart, Hoffarber, had little trouble getting shots though I can't say it was due to running off screens all day. Sure, he got some shots via good picks but many times the Buckeyes simply failed to spot him and he made them pay scoring 27 points on 7/10 shooting including a white hot 7/9 from deep.
Again, this was no gimme being a roadie and all but that doesn't take away the sting of watching a 23-4 run unfold thanks to countless self inflicted wounds. It was also curious to see Thad again delay installing the press to try and create some turnovers though he eventually did that as OSU closed the gap slightly late in the game.
As it stands right now, it's highly likely the losing streak reaches three as the Buckeyes travel to West Lafayette on Tuesday before the Badgers come to town next Saturday. Purdue is almost a definite L while there's at least a chance against Wisconsin since it's at home. A split will leave OSU 2-4 in conference with a homer against Northwestern to follow. Let's hope this team starts to gel with Turner completely back in the fold and makes a commitment to stiffen up the D while avoiding a case of the Sahara's at least once a game on offense. I still firmly believe the talent is there and it's important to remember that with or without Turner, we knew this stretch of four conference roadies in the first five games would be a killer.