It wasn’t that Minnesota’s men’s basketball team couldn’t defend the three. It was that Ohio State’s Je’Kel Foster couldn’t miss a three.
After missing the first shot of the game ” a three-pointer ” the senior guard poured in a career-high 25 points, hitting his next seven three-point attempts to lead the Buckeyes to a 67-53 win over the Gophers.
The seven threes were a career high.
“Foster really got going today shooting the three,” coach Dan Monson said. “Too many times tonight we were trading twos with threes and you just can’t do that.”
For the second straight game, Minnesota was led by a walk-on.
Freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala scored 13 points in the first half, on his way to a career-high 16 points on 4-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Abu-Shamala had a great game and kept them in it,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Also, our turnovers and lack of rebounding were pretty pivotal. Those things kept them in the game longer than I would have liked.”
The Gophers (10-9, 1-7 Big Ten) led only once in the contest, at 2-0 in the opening minute.
But Ohio State (16-3, 5-3 Big Ten) hit four of its next five shots, including three threes by Foster to jump out to an 11-4 lead.
Minnesota was able to keep it close, however, thanks to Abu-Shamala’s hot hand, and entered the locker room at halftime trailing by just five, 33-28.
Senior forward J’son Stamper opened the second half with back-to-back jumpers to pull the Gophers within one.
But, it was turnovers that doomed Minnesota in the end.
With 2:22 remaining in the game, senior guard Maurice Hargrow hit a pair of free throws to pull the Gophers within nine.
Then sophomore guard Rico Tucker ” who entered the game after the free throw ” came away with a steal as the Buckeyes attempted to in-bound the ball.
Tucker dished it to Hargrow who converted the lay-in to pull within seven.
Ohio State turned the ball over on the next possession, too, as senior forward Matt Sylvester threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Stamper.
Minnesota pushed the ball down the court and was looking to pull within five, but turned the ball over when Hargrow was unable to handle a pass and the ball skittered out of bounds.
On Ohio State’s ensuing possession, Terrence Dials dunked to extend the lead to nine.
It was turnover No. 18 for the Gophers and the four-point swing that effectively sealed their fate.
“It is disappointing to be halfway through the Big Ten season and be one and seven,” Monson said. “We have to be able to go on the road and dig out a few wins.”