COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
At least that’s what athletes have been told for decades. No. 24 Ohio State found that adage true Saturday night in a 64-46 victory over outmanned Minnesota at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes didn’t score until nearly four minutes had wound off the clock, giving the Golden Gophers a seven-point cushion that grew to 12 in the second half. But Ohio State’s decisive 27-5 run put Minnesota in the rear-view mirror.
Forward Sam Thompson paced Ohio State with 19 points. Guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. tallied 13 points and six rebounds, guard Shannon Scott scored 10 points and guard Aaron Craft recorded six points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The Gophers went through an almost 14-minute stretch in the second half in which they made just 3 of 14 shots and turned the ball over seven times. The Buckeyes scored 34 points in the paint, 17 points off turnovers and 17 second-chance points.
Guard Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 13 points. Fellow guard Deandre Mathieu added 10 points.
Ohio State outscored the Gophers 46-18 in the second half.
The defeat serves as a crippling blow to Minnesota’s NCAA tournament hopes. The Gophers (17-11, 6-9 Big Ten) have lost six of their past eight games, falling to seventh place in the conference.
Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) has won six of seven games in February after losing five of six after New Year’s. With two weeks remaining in the season, the Buckeyes are in a race to receive a coveted first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. They reside in fifth place — the top four teams get a free pass to the quarterfinals.
In the teams’ previous meeting this season, Minnesota outrebounded Ohio State by 15. Saturday served as a role reversal, with the Buckeyes outrebounding the Gophers 35-25.
Ohio State missed its first five shots before rattling off seven consecutive points. The Buckeyes made 6 of 22 shots in the first half and no player had more than four points.
Minnesota used an 11-2 run late in the half to build a 28-18 halftime lead. Forward Joey King and Hollins each scored seven points in the half. The Golden Gophers never trailed before the break.
Minnesota was going for its first season sweep of Ohio State since the 2004-05 season.
NOTES: Entering Saturday, Ohio State senior PG Aaron Craft ranked second all-time in the Big Ten with 317 steals. He was eight behind Illinois’ Bruce Douglas (324). … Minnesota is only 4-8 away from Williams Arena this season. The Gophers are 2-6 on the road in the Big Ten. … The Buckeyes have defeated Minnesota seven consecutive times at Value City Arena.
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