Minnesota’s Coffey buzzes OSU with 19
Amir Coffey had 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, helping Minnesota stave off another setback at home with a 78-68 victory over Ohio State on Sunday night.
Akeem Springs scored 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range for the Gophers (15-2, 3-1), who have already topped their Big Ten win total of last season and beat the Buckeyes for only the second time in the last 12 meetings.
Jae’Sean Tate had 20 points and nine rebounds for Ohio State (10-6, 0-3), but he also committed five fouls and seven turnovers. The Buckeyes have lost their first three conference games for the first time in coach Thad Matta’s 13 seasons.
With spitfire new football coach P.J. Fleck firing up the crowd at halftime, the Gophers avoided the second-half lapse that cost them last week in a one-point overtime loss here to Michigan State after leading by as many as 14 points.
The Buckeyes trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half, 38-27 at the intermission and still 55-47 around the midpoint of the second half after a smooth left-handed pull-up jumper from the baseline by the freshman Coffey.
Reggie Lynch fouled out with 10 points and five rebounds with 4:01 remaining, and Thompson made two free throws to cut Minnesota’s advantage to 62-59, the smallest since 6-3. But Springs, who had five assists, drove along the baseline and out the other side to set up Nate Mason for a floater in the lane that pushed the lead back to 66-59. Then Springs hit the dagger 3-pointer in the closing minutes that gave the Gophers a 69-60 edge.
Mason, Minnesota’s leading scorer who was held to 2-for-12 shooting from the field, still finished with 12 points.
JaQuan Lyle had 12 points for the Buckeyes, but fellow starters Marc Loving (nine points on 3-for-11 shooting) and Kam Williams (four points on 1-for-10 shooting) struggled all night.
Confidence, maturity and newcomers like Coffey, Lynch and Springs have all played significant parts, but the most tangible factor in the turnaround at Minnesota is defense. The Gophers entered the game with a 37.9 field goal percentage against them, the best in the Big Ten and 13th in the nation.
The Buckeyes went 8:03 without a basket during the first part of the opening half and fell behind by as much as 26-8 after Springs, the graduate transfer from Milwaukee, swished a 3-pointer.