MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — David Lighty scored 19 points and Jared Sullinger had 18 points and 13 rebounds to help top-ranked Ohio State remain unbeaten with an 82-69 victory over No. 18 Minnesota on Sunday.
Every starter for the Buckeyes (24-0, 11-0 Big Ten) scored 10 or more points as they stretched the second-longest winning streak in school history. William Buford added 15 points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals, and Ohio State marched forward in this challenging month on the schedule. Up next is a trip to No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Blake Hoffarber led Minnesota (16-7, 5-6) with 16 points, playing the second half with a limp and a brace on his left knee. Ralph Sampson III and freshman reserve guard Chip Armelin each had 14 points for the Gophers, who had a rough week that ought to push them out of the national rankings. They lost at Indiana on Wednesday.
Minnesota made a late rally to come within three points in a loss at Ohio State last month, but without senior leader and steady point guard Al Nolen there wasn’t nearly enough confidence or poise to match the formidable Buckeyes. The Gophers matched their season high with 19 turnovers.
The Buckeyes went just 10 for 20 from the free throw line and still won by 13. Sullinger was 2 for 8.
Austin Hollins, one of three freshmen in the eight-player rotation Minnesota has remaining after the injuries to Nolen and big man Maurice Walker and the departure of combo guard Devoe Joseph, started in place of center Colton Iverson to give the Gophers more balance and athleticism.
The son of an NBA head coach, Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies, Hollins has been contributing more lately with double-digit scoring in two of the last three games and a desperately needed shooting touch from the wing. He looked more like a rookie in this one, though, with a bad-angle layup attempt that hit the bottom of the backboard and a jumper that completely missed the rim.
The 6-foot-10 Iverson wasn’t better off the bench, with four turnovers in 11 first-half minutes. Hoffarber, with a couple of clutch 3-pointers from the top of the key, and Sampson, with a bunch of feather-soft baby hook shots, did their best to make the Gophers competitive. The conference’s leading rebounding team, though, was beaten 23-15 on the boards in the first half and just didn’t have enough firepower or the poise to keep up.
The Buckeyes do a whole lot well, and leaping ability is perhaps one of their most underrated strengths. Either Sullinger or Deshaun Thomas seemed like they got at least a hand on every missed shot, and Lighty beat the Gophers back for a few end-to-end fast-break layups.
Lighty has played with six first-round NBA draft picks already in his college career, and he’ll likely add at least one more to the list whenever Sullinger leaves. For now, this all-Ohio-grown group, except for the freshman Thomas from next-door Indiana, is chugging impressively forward in the chase for a championship while also protecting this unblemished won-loss record.
Dallas Lauderdale had Ohio State’s first six points of the second half, one of several signs this game was going to the Buckeyes. The 6-8 mean-looking shot-blocking specialist, the lowest scorer in coach Thad Matta’s seven-man rotation, included a violent two-handed dunk off an alley-oop inbounds pass in that stretch.
The Buckeyes lost their shooting touch after halftime, not only at the foul line but from all over the court, but it didn’t matter with the way they dominated the pace and flustered the Gophers with their zone defense.
Sampson more than matched Sullinger before the break, but the slender junior lacks the thick freshman’s strength and it showed down the stretch. Near the midpoint of the second half, Sullinger slithered his way inside and muscled the ball up for a layup to draw the foul on Sampson. He missed the free throw, of course, but it didn’t matter.
The packed Williams Arena crowd that was so loud at tipoff and in the early stages of the first half was much quieter later, hushed several times including when Aaron Craft’s 3-pointer beat the shot clock and gave Ohio State a 61-46 lead with 8:10 left.
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