Gophers get signature win, beat Ohio State

Elliott Eliason led the Gophers with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

 Minnesota guard Deandre Mathieu fights through Ohio State players at Williams Arena on Thursday. Mathieu led the team with 13 points.

Holly Peterson

Minnesota guard Deandre Mathieu fights through Ohio State players at Williams Arena on Thursday. Mathieu led the team with 13 points.

Jace Frederick

The Gophers let a chance for a signature win slip out of their grasp late Saturday in their loss to Michigan State.

They weren’t about to let that happen again.

Minnesota rode a big performance from junior center Elliott Eliason and used some crucial plays down the stretch to pull away late en route to a 63-53 win over No. 11 Ohio State at Williams Arena on Thursday night.

“We’ve come close with some of the toughest teams in the country,” senior guard Austin Hollins said. “And I think tonight we really took a step forward as a team and overcame that wall where we’ve been beating ourselves late in the game and we really finished tonight.”

Eliason said the Gophers knew the Buckeyes would be hungry coming off of back-to-back losses.

He was even hungrier.

The Big Easy stole the show down low. He finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. It was his sixth double-double of the season and the fourth time in five Big Ten contests the Eliason snagged double-digit rebounds.

“Eliason impacted the game in so many ways,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “He has gotten so much better and he deserves all the credit.”

Ohio State’s perimeter defense locked down the Gophers from the outside most of the night. Minnesota shot just 3 for 14 from downtown.

But for the first time all season the Gophers were able to establish an interior presence from multiple sources.

Aside from Eliason’s production, the Gophers also got eight points and four boards from junior forward Oto Osenieks and five consecutive points from junior center Mo Walker to turn momentum entirely in Minnesota’s favor in the second half.

“We knew that if we didn’t score inside, it was going to be a long night,” Eliason said. “It wasn’t just me.”

While Minnesota struggled to shoot the ball from deep, its point guard had no issues penetrating to the bucket. Junior guard DeAndre Mathieu scored 13 points and five assists.

He completely outplayed Ohio State All-Big Ten point guard Aaron Craft, who finished seven points, four assists and five turnovers.

Mathieu said he heard a lot about the matchup with Craft from everyone back home, but said he didn’t really care.

But he couldn’t entirely hide his excitement.

“I can’t wait to check my Twitter,” he said. “I know they’re going crazy.

“Don’t tell coach Pitino I said that.”

The Gophers now head into Iowa on Sunday confident, ready for the next test.

“I feel like we can compete with anyone in the Big Ten,” Mathieu said. “We executed in the clutch today and pulled out a big one.”