Gophers persevere 60-56 over Ohio State

Minnesota needed overtime but came back after losing a lead late in the game.

Bob Wothe

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nobody knows quite what to expect from Minnesota’s men’s basketball team each time it takes the court.

Sure, the squad was 10-3 in nonconference play and even won its first two Big Ten games.

But the two Big Ten wins were over bottom-feeders Penn State and Purdue, and Minnesota was still looking for an impressive win.

Now, it has one.

Minnesota (13-4, 3-1 Big Ten) outlasted and out-hearted Ohio State (12-6, 1-3) 60-56 in overtime to win its first game in Columbus since 1997 and hand the Buckeyes their first loss this season at Value City Arena – and the team did it mostly without leading scorer in Big Ten play, center Jeff Hagen.

Hagen left the game for good with just four minutes left in the first half after spraining his left knee, and the Gophers were forced to abandon their plan of dumping the ball inside to Hagen.

Vincent Grier was more than happy to step up.

“It was rough for me these past two games,” Grier said of his combined 3-of-13 performance from the field against Purdue on Jan. 12 and Saturday at Iowa. “I knew it was time for me to step up again and make some plays.”

And make plays is exactly what the junior wing did. With the ball almost exclusively in his hands down the stretch, he scored 11 straight points to give his team a 51-49 lead with 2:54 remaining in regulation.

He finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds after scoring just three points in the first half.

But Grier never would have been forced to take the game over as he did if not for Ohio State backup Matt Sylvester.

Sylvester scored 13 straight points for the Buckeyes as he led them on a 21-5 run that gave the team its largest lead of the game at 46-40 with just less than six minutes remaining.

Before Sylvester caught fire, the Gophers had a seemingly comfortable cushion, having jumped out to an early 19-8 lead and never led by less than four.

Sylvester, who finished with 17 points, made one last heroic stand for the Buckeyes, connecting on a layup with 54 seconds left to tie the game at 51.

That basket would ultimately send the game to overtime.

Once in the extra period, though, Minnesota freshman Dan Coleman took the reins from Grier.

Coleman hit a three-pointer just 16 seconds into the period and then gave the Gophers the lead for good on a tip-in off his own miss with 24 seconds left to make the score 58-56.

For a team that was looking for a quality win on the road, an upset of Ohio State seems to have filled that void.

“I know a lot of people will say that was ugly, but we thought it was pretty,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said of a game in which both teams shot 38.3 percent from the field. “It came down to having some character at the end, and I was very pleased with our focus.”

With 13 wins, the Gophers now have one more than they did all of last year.

And, as senior captain Brent Lawson said, this team thinks it’s capable of even more.

“This season is just a testament to the fact that a team game wins,” Lawson said. “They went on a run for a while there, and we didn’t let that break us. And we’re as confident as ever, because we know we can play a lot better than that.”