NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Minnesota – Buckeyes Favored
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Thad Matta believes Ohio State received a much-needed wakeup call in its last game. He’ll see if the second-ranked Buckeyes took anything away from the scare when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.
Ohio State (23-3, 11-1 Big Ten) has won its last two games after both came down to the final minutes, but it was the 64-62 victory over Penn State on Wednesday that gave the Buckeyes their biggest panic moment of the season. They had a 21-point halftime lead and pushed it to 24 in the second half, but the Nittany Lions finished the game on a tear that nearly ended with Ohio State being upset.
Penn State went on a 29-10 run midway through the second half and had a chance to win on the game’s final possession, but a desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer from the Lions’ Mike Walker hit the back of the rim.
"I told the guys that we have to view this that we have a long way to go," said Matta, whose team needs a win Sunday to remain tied with Wisconsin atop the Big Ten. "We have to make sure we are striving to get better every day. We came in here to get a win and we got it. We maybe don’t feel the greatest about it, but we needed to regroup and get ready to go to Minnesota next."
Greg Oden led Ohio State with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Daequan Cook added 11 points. Ron Lewis scored 12 points.
The Buckeyes have won nine straight – their longest league winning streak since a 10-game run during the 1970-71 season. Ohio State went 13-1 in conference play that season to win the Big Ten title.
Matta, though, is still concerned about his team maintaining its level of play throughout games. Ohio State needed a late 11-4 run to defeat Purdue 63-56 last Saturday.
"I know you guys get tired of me saying ‘We need consistency. We need consistency,’ " Matta said. "But that’s exactly what this team needs."
Matta’s squad may need to find it by Feb. 25, when Ohio State hosts No. 3 Wisconsin in a showdown that should go a long way toward determining the Big Ten regular season champion and top seed for the conference tournament. The Buckeyes’ two opponents before the Badgers, Minnesota on Sunday and Penn State on Wednesday, have a combined 4-20 record in the league.
Ohio State and Wisconsin, which defeated the Buckeyes at Madison on Jan. 9, each play one more Big Ten game after the Feb. 25 matchup.
The Buckeyes have won 29 straight against unranked opponents, taking those games by an average of 16.1 points – 18.7 in 22 such victories this season.
The Gophers (9-17, 3-9) are hosting their second top 5 team of the week, having lost 75-62 to Wisconsin on Wednesday. Minnesota trailed by only four at halftime, but allowed the Badgers to shoot 55.6 percent (15-of-27) in the second half, and Wisconsin went 21-of-31 from the foul line overall. The Gophers were 14-of-18 on free throws.
Minnesota stayed close by going 8-of-12 from 3-point range. A 3 by Dan Coleman cut Wisconsin’s lead to four with 5:18 left, but the Badgers outscored the Gophers 18-9 the rest of the way.
Minnesota has lost four straight and nine of 11.
"It was probably the best game we’ve played all year," said Spencer Tollackson, who scored 13 points before fouling out with 8:08 remaining.
Lawrence McKenzie, who leads the Gophers with 15.6 points per contest, came off the bench for the second straight game and scored 21.
Minnesota is looking to defeat a top 5 team for the first time since knocking off then-No. 4 Indiana 71-67 on Feb. 12, 1992. The Gophers have won two of the last three meetings with Ohio State, but have lost nine of 12.
by: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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