Last-minute rally lifts U past Bucks

by Todd Zolecki

Once the Gophers men’s basketball team gets through watching the videotape from Wednesday night’s game against Ohio State, chances are the tape will be shoved in the back of their video library, never to be seen again.
Somehow the Gophers, who had their worst shooting effort of the season, escaped with a victory by defeating Ohio State 60-57 at Williams Arena.
Gophers coach Clem Haskins admitted the game wasn’t pretty. Not one of the 14,081 onlookers at Williams would disagree.
Minnesota shot 29.1 percent (16-for-55) for the game. It hadn’t experienced shooting woes like that all season. But home-court advantage, a Buckeyes roster full of freshman and an ability to make their free throws kept the Gophers close and contributed to the win.
Players admitted coming out with a lack of emotion. But there were mixed feelings whether or not they were looking past the 9-13 Buckeyes and onto Saturday’s game at Michigan.
“I guess we kind of underestimated them, which we shouldn’t have done from the beginning,” Gophers forward Courtney James said. “It turned out to be a close game. We knew we had to play them, but we didn’t come out with any fire. Bobby (Jackson) is the only one who came out ready to play.”
Jackson, a 6-foot-1 guard, turned into a rebounding machine for Minnesota. The junior hauled in 11 rebounds and turned in a double-double performance by adding 17 points. Both were game highs.
“Years from now, nobody will care how we won,” Haskins said. “I’ve got to give credit to our big guys. John Thomas and Courtney James really stepped up tonight. They made key free throws at critical times.”
The duo connected on 14 of 17 free throw attempts. That’s something unexpected from the two who entered the game making only 55 percent of their shots from the line.
Without Thomas and James making those shots, the game would have been much different. But the Gophers should have put their opponent away early. The Buckeyes haven’t won a Big Ten road game this season.
With recent talk of the Gophers needing four wins to make a strong bid for the NCAA tournament, a loss to the Buckeyes at home would have been potentially disastrous to their chances.
“I think we did what they do a lot — switch the defenses around,” Buckeyes guard Damon Stringer said. “They didn’t really know what to expect, and I think we had them on their heels.”
The game stayed dangerously close, though, until the final seconds of regulation. Minnesota trailed 57-56 with only one minute remaining.
James threw down a forceful dunk off a pass from Jackson with 34 seconds to go, giving Minnesota a 58-57 lead. Ohio State couldn’t come through on its following position. Sam Jacobson grabbed a loose-ball rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to put the Gophers up by three with 9.1 seconds to go.
On the next play Stringer drove inside, and the ball was deflected out of bounds off a Minnesota player. Buckeyes coach Randy Ayers looked at Stringer with three fingers raised, indicating he should have gone for a 3-pointer instead.
Stringer said he wasn’t trying to shoot or draw a foul. “I was going in trying to sag the defense in and then kick it out,” he said.
Buckeyes senior Rick Yudt got off the final shot and missed to seal the win for Minnesota.
Jacobson plays through pain
Jacobson said he is feeling “pretty good” after bruising his left pelvic muscle five days ago. He played 23 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“It’s sore at times,” he said. “Certain movements bother me some, but I can tolerate it.”
Haskins was pleased with Jacobson’s mental toughness and how he played through his pain.

Ohio State 31 26 — 57
Gophers 35 25 — 60

Ohio State (9-14, 2-12 Big Ten)
SHOOTING — Tate 3-7 2-2 8, Stonerook 1-5 5-9 7, Belter 2-5 0-0 4, Coleman 3-7 0-0 8, Stringer 4-10 2-3 13, Singleton 4-5 0-0 8, Yudt 3-7 0-0 7, Bosley 0-2 0-0 0, Gradney 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-49 9-14 57.
REBOUNDS — 32 (Stonerook 8).

Gophers (15-10, 7-6)
SHOOTING — James 1-3 7-8 9, Jacobson 3-10 3-4 9, J. Thomas 2-6 7-9 11, Jackson 5-13 5-6 17, Harris 1-5 1-2 3, Grim 3-7 1-2 9, Jones 0-3 0-1 0, C. Thomas 0-6 0-0 0, Tarver 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 1-2 0-0 2, Winter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-55 24-32 60.
REBOUNDS — 41 (Jackson 11).
A — 14,081.


Northwestern 82, Wisconsin 71
Iowa 83, Michigan State 47