First Posted: 1/6/2015
MINNEAPOLIS — Marc Loving’s jump shot from the lane with 5.6 seconds left in overtime lifted No. 22 Ohio State to a 74-72 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night, helping the Buckeyes escape with the win after blowing a 12-point second-half lead.
D’Angelo Russell had 25 of his 27 points in the first half, missing all seven of his field-goal attempts after the break, but he made two critical free throws for Ohio State (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) in the closing minutes. Loving added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Mo Walker had 18 points and nine rebounds, DeAndre Mathieu scored 17 points and Andre Hollins had all 12 of his points in the second half, but the Gophers (11-5, 0-3) weren’t able to turn their comeback into a win.
Loving’s tip-in lifted Ohio State to a 70-68 lead with 2:05 left in the extra period. Russell’s foul shots after Elliott Eliason missed one of two on the other end put the Buckeyes up by three with 63 seconds remaining.
Mathieu threw the ball away on a backdoor bounce pass to Nate Mason, who never cut that way. But Russell turned it over, and Mason made a three-point play to tie it at 72 with 24 seconds left.
After Loving’s leaner, Mathieu brought the ball the other way. But he was swarmed in the backcourt and had his desperation pass get swatted away.
The Buckeyes, who started a stretch of four out of five games on the road, stayed with the energizing man-to-man defense they switched to during a comeback win against Illinois on Saturday. But their strength is when they have the ball, as the conference’s top-scoring team with a top-five field-goal percentage in the nation.
Their back cuts to the basket beat the Gophers again and again.
Sam Thompson had two dunks and an emphatic blocked shot of Walker in the final 4 minutes of the second half, the second slam coming from a wide-open baseline and giving Ohio State a 66-63 lead.
Mathieu answered with a layup and Thompson missed on the other end. After Joey King’s 3-pointer was blocked, Mathieu chased down the loose ball he kept for the Gophers after a replay review by the officials with 42.7 seconds left. Mason was fouled on a drive, and he made one of two free throws to tie the game again.
Amir Williams had a short shot to win it in the closing seconds of regulation, but it glanced off the front rim. Russell didn’t attempt a shot in the second half until almost halfway through, and his baseline try hit the side of the backboard.
Russell was on his way to the Ohio State freshman scoring record — Jared Sullinger had 40 points in a game during the 2010-11 season — after running Hollins and the Gophers ragged throughout the first half.
Not only did Hollins have to guard him, but he went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting over the first 20 minutes. That left him 3 for 25 with nine points over the last two-plus games, until he got going after the break.
Williams had a vicious dunk to stretch the Ohio State lead back to seven, but the senior center was getting a little mouthy at that point and he was called for a technical on the other end following a Buckeyes foul. The Gophers made four straight free throws to seal a 21-9 spurt and tie it at 60 with 7:03 left.
The Gophers wore their rarely used black uniforms, and the school organized an all-black look for the arena with special T-shirts for the student section. Most of the rest of the fans complied with their own garb, too, but the color wasn’t going to influence the advantage the Gophers have here. It’s all about the noise in this 87-year-old building with the famously raised floor and the barn-shaped roof.
The place was buzzing at the beginning, with a bunch of former Gophers and a few current Timberwolves players including Andrew Wiggins in attendance. Russell swished three 3-pointers during an early 15-2 run by Ohio State, but Minnesota recovered with an establishment of the low post by Walker and Eliason. Eliason dropped in a dunk from the baseline to tie it at 21, and the arena was roaring.
Russell had a lot left in the arsenal, though, including a seemingly endless supply of those smooth one-handed floating flips he can make from anywhere when he’s not firing up a shot from behind the arc. Loving leaped from the lane for an all-in-one rebound reverse dunk at the halftime buzzer to punctuate another surge by the Buckeyes that put them up 41-29.