No. 19 Gophers lose for fourth time in six games, 64-58 to Ohio State

It wasn’t as embarrassing as Wednesday’s blowout loss to Michigan State, but it may have been a more damaging one. The No. 19 Gophers lost for the fourth time in six games at Ohio State on Saturday night, 64-58, dropping them to sixth place in the Big Ten and likely out of the top 25 after a seven-week stint. The unranked Buckeyes certainly weren’t a slouch âÄî it was their fifth win over a ranked opponent this season âÄî and the back-to-back road games were expected to be the toughest two-game stretch of the season. But the losses were a step backward for an NCAA tournament bid and exposed some major flaws in the young Gophers team. Turnovers were the main problem Sunday. The Gophers committed 17 of them, leading to 14 Ohio State points. Sophomore point guard Al Nolen, regarded as one of the best ball-handlers in the conference, led the team with five of those turnovers. âÄúItâÄôs pretty disappointing to see,âÄù head coach Tubby Smith said. âÄúSome of it was unforced. A few of them were just rushing. Especially [Nolen], because he’s pretty good at taking care of the basketball. That’s something our guards have to get better at: taking care of the ball.âÄù Blake Hoffarber did break out of his shooting slump to lead the Gophers with 19 points. They all came in the last 13:20 of the game and, in Hoffarber style, all but a single free-throw to complete a 4-point play came from 3-pointers. The sophomore guard came into the game 7-for-37 (18.9 percent) on 3-pointers in Big Ten games, but finished 6-for-10 on Saturday. âÄúHe hasn’t been shooting well, so it was nice to see him break out tonight and have that type of game,âÄù Smith said. âÄúWe see it in practice, that when he’s locked in, he’s hard to stop.âÄù Hoffarber converted on a 4-point play with just over five minutes left, pulling the Gophers within 4. He hit another 3 a little over a minute later to make the score 55-52, but the Gophers went 3-for-10 from that point on. Ohio StateâÄôs Evan Turner hit seven free throws in the final 64 seconds to seal the win, which was Ohio StateâÄôs fourth in a row. Turner, one of five Buckeyes in double digits, scored 10 of his 18 points from the free throw line. The Buckeyes shot 18 free throws in the second half âÄî the Gophers had five. âÄúFouling negates hustle,âÄù Smith said. âÄúI don’t know where the calls were coming from, but they were there.âÄù Damian Johnson added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Gophers, and was the only other double-digit scorer. True freshman center Colton Iverson finished with 8 points and five rebounds, which was a career-high scoring mark in a conference game. Fellow freshman big man Ralph Sampson III, meanwhile, played just 14 minutes and had 2 points. The Gophers (18-5, 6-5 Big Ten) get a break on Tuesday, playing Big Ten bottomfeeder Indiana at home.