Gophers fall 78-72 to Buckeyes, losing streak increases to four

Guard Nate Mason scored 21 points in the losing effort.

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

Meagan Lynch

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

Jack White

For the second game in a row, the ball was in Akeem Springs’s hands in the closing seconds.

The guard shot a 3-pointer from the baseline, and the shot went long – the Gophers’ losing streak got even longer.

Minnesota (15-6, 3-5 Big Ten) dropped its fourth consecutive contest, this time to Ohio State (13-8, 3-5), 78-72 in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday.

“We had some opportunities at the end,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “Some things didn’t go our way.”

Minnesota went on a 7-0 run with 6:32 left in the game. Guard Amir Coffey scored five of the seven points during that stretch.

The freshman got out ahead of the Ohio State defense and dunked in transition with 5:59 to go. He finished with 11 points.

Minnesota was within three when Coffey and fellow guard Nate Mason trapped Ohio State’s Kam Williams in the corner of the court. The defensive effort resulted in a jump ball and Minnesota’s possession with 34 seconds to go.

The Buckeyes came back with a defensive effort of their own when two defenders forced the ball off Springs and out of bounds for the turnover. Minnesota missed its last three shots after the turnover to finish the game 25-61 from the field.

Mason scored 21 points for Minnesota after scoring single-digit totals the last two games. He went 7-18 from the field and had four assists, which tied for a team high.

The Buckeyes shot 50 percent from the field compared to the Gophers’ 41 percent.

“That’s not our identity at all,” Mason told reporters. “We’re one of the top teams in the league in defensive efficiency. We have to get back to playing our game and playing defense.”

Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson had his second double-double against Minnesota this season. Thompson scored 19 points and had ten rebounds.

Ohio State put together an 11-0 run just 2:48 into the game. The Buckeyes took a 15-6 lead during that stint. The team led by as much as 17 points early in the first half.

Minnesota started a comeback when the team went on a 12-0 run to close out the first. Power forward Jordan Murphy got his first basket of the game during the stint, followed by back-back 3-pointers from Springs and Mason.

The Gophers received a lucky break when a missed free throw by Reggie Lynch hit off an Ohio State player and went out of bounds with 1:29 to go.

Although Springs missed the last shot, he finished with 15 points on 5-12 shooting and led the team in rebounds with 10.

Guard Dupree McBrayer stole the ball with 12:00 left in the first half. Ohio State got back in transition, but McBrayer pulled up and nailed the jump shot. The shot brought the Gophers back within five points.

McBrayer finished with four points and four assists off the bench.

Minnesota’s next game comes at home on Jan. 28 against No. 22 Maryland (18-2, 6-1). The Terrapins are currently tied for first place in the Big Ten.

“I’m not unhappy with the way we’re playing,” Pitino told reporters. “I feel confident that they’ll break through.”