Minnesota loses against Ohio State

The Gophers led early but were outscored 46-18 in the second half.

Jace Frederick

The Gophers were in control heading into the locker room in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday afternoon.

They utilized an 11-2 run late in the first half to nab a 28-18 lead over the Buckeyes at halftime.

Minnesota had No. 24 Ohio State on the ropes and looked on pace to earn the key road win it so desperately needed at this point in the season.

Then 46-18 happened.

Ohio State outscored Minnesota by 28 points in the second half en route to a 64-46 win.

“We just hijacked ourselves mentally,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the game. “We just didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Minnesota turned the ball over nine times in the second half, which played a crucial role in the collapse.

Ohio State seemed to capitalize on nearly every miscue as it leaked out and attacked in transition for easy buckets.

The Buckeyes finished with 17 points off turnovers and 34 points in the paint.

“Every time we turned it over, they came down and made us pay for it,” Pitino told reporters after the game.

Minnesota didn’t do itself any favors with a woeful shooting performance for the the second straight game.

The Gophers were 17-for-48 from the field — a near replica of their 19-for-51 performance in their 62-49 loss to Illinois on Wednesday night.

Minnesota’s bench shot a combined 2-for-14 from the field Saturday.

Gophers junior guard Andre Hollins was the team’s leading scorer, but took just four shots the entire game.

Minnesota is a combined 8-for-42 from beyond the arc in its last two outings and has been outscored 84-40 in its last two second halves combined.

The game Saturday marked the second straight time the Gophers failed to crack the 50-point mark.

That said, there are clearly some things that need to be worked out.

“We’ve just got to take a step back, take a deep breath and focus on getting better — that’s the biggest thing,” Pitino told reporters after the game. “We can’t get too high, can’t get too low.”

The Gophers, however, are in serious danger of falling too low.

Their back-to-back losses in less-than-impressive fashion have them as one of ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s “First Four Out” of the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota likely needs to win at least two of its final three Big Ten battles to get itself on the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.

That won’t be easy, considering the Gophers’ next two games are at home against No. 15 Iowa on Tuesday and at No. 20 Michigan on Saturday.

Minnesota lost to both of those squads earlier this season.

Repeat performances will almost certainly have the Gophers bound for the National Invitation Tournament come March Madness.