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Minnesota men’s basketball faces off against Ohio State

Jamison Battle comes back to play in Minnesota for the first time since transferring to Ohio State.
Image by Daye Stager
Guard Elijah Hawkins scores a career-high 24 points in a win over the Buckeyes at home.

Minnesota men’s basketball beat Ohio State 88-79 at the Williams Arena, also known as the Barn, on Thursday, splitting the season series.

The Gophers were coming off a win against Rutgers and a career-high game scoring game from sophomore forward Pharrel Payne (21 points). Ohio State played their first game since beating No. 2 ranked Purdue in Columbus.

Ohio State forward Jamison Battle made his first return to the Barn since he was a member of the Gophers. Battle’s season-high of 25 points came against the Gophers in a December matchup at Ohio State. 

The Buckeyes fired their head coach Chris Holtmann after almost seven years with the team. Associate head coach Jake Diebler is the interim head coach for the rest of the season. 

First half

Junior forward Dawson Garcia opened the game for the Gophers with a mid-range jump shot. The Gophers started the game on an 8-0 run before Ohio State guard Bruce Thorton got a floater to fall.

The Gopher fans were loud to start the game, booing at Battle every time he touched the ball. 

Minnesota started the game on a 21-9 run in the first six minutes, 10 of those points coming from Garcia.

Ohio State guard Scotty Middleton hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 22-17, before a tough finish from junior guard Elijah Hawkins to get the lead back to seven. 

Battle scored his eighth point on a stepback three to cut the Gopher lead to just three points with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the first half. 

Payne had a put-back dunk over multiple Ohio State players about a minute later that gave the Gophers a 30-25 lead before Diebler called a timeout. 

Battle tied the game at 30 after hitting his third three of the half with about five minutes left. 

Payne scored eight out of 10 Gopher points in just under three minutes. 

After Ohio State tied the game 32-32, the Gophers ended the half on a 12-2 run in a little over three minutes.

The Gophers led 42-34 at the half. Garcia (12) and Payne (10) were the top scorers for the Gophers, while Battle fought through the boos and chants to finish the half with 13 points to lead all scorers. 

The Gophers doubled the Buckeyes in the rebounds category 18 to nine in the first half. Sophomore forward Joshua Ola-Joseph didn’t see the floor during the first half, despite being a starter in 19 of the 25 total games this season. 

Second half

Payne started the half for the Gophers, going three for four from the free-throw line. 

Battle hit another three, but Hawkins responded with back-to-back threes of his own to make the score 53-41 with just under 16 minutes remaining. 

The Buckeyes came out aggressive, sending a full-court press against the Gophers to slow their offense.

The tactic worked as a layup from Thorton cut the Gopher lead to just nine with 14 minutes remaining. 

Garcia finished a tough layup for his 16th point just before the 10-minute mark, now with the Gophers at 57-48. Hawkins hit his fourth three of the night and moved the lead to double digits just a possession later.

Payne threw down a dunk with a little less than eight minutes left to give the Gophers a 67-51 lead. Two possessions later, Senior forward Parker Fox scored his ninth point and then forced a turnover in the low post on the other side.

A three-point play from Sophomore guard Braedon Carrington pushed the Gopher lead to 17 with a little over five minutes remaining. The Gophers entered the double bonus with over four minutes remaining.

Ohio State tried to foul their way back into the game, but Hawkins and freshman Cam Christie each hit their free throws toward the end of the game. 

The Gophers never trailed throughout the game and Hawkins was able to tally a career-high 24 points.

Hawkins kept it professional in his post-game interview when asked how he felt about his career-high game. 

“Just playing to win,” Hawkins said. 

The Gophers’ 88 points were the most the team scored in a Big Ten game this year. 

Garcia finished the game with 22 points and nine rebounds. Hawkins added seven assists and Payne finished with 15. 

Garcia, who played with Battle last season, did not consider the game to be any more serious because Battle was coming back.

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business at the end of the day,” Garcia said. “They were just another team that was unfortunately in the way.”

Ohio State’s scoring on Thursday was led by Thorton and Battle with 25 and 21 points, respectively.

Head coach Ben Johnson mentioned Payne’s growth during the post-game press conference. 

“Super proud of his approach,” Johnson said. “Today at the free throw line, five of seven, and [his shot] looks confident, it looks clean… Now it’s not a million fakes, he’s going to his one or two moves and he’s at the rim.”

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