MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- New coach Richard Pitino has brought a fast-paced, perimeter-based style to Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers haven't ignored their inside game, though. Ohio State got quite the glimpse.
Elliott Eliason had 12 points and 13 rebounds to help Minnesota
muscle up and beat the 11th-ranked Buckeyes 63-53 Thursday night, a rare
third loss in a row for Ohio State.
"I never get bored of double-doubles," Eliason said.
DeAndre Mathieu had 13 points, five assists and three steals for the
Gophers (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten), who gave Pitino his first signature win at
Minnesota. They did it by backing down the Buckeyes and owning the area
around the basket, posting a 38-20 advantage in points in the paint and a
39-24 rebounding edge.
That started with Eliason.
"Whenever we needed a bucket, he came through clutch with some big
finishes, big rebounds," Mathieu said. "He's turned into a monster. He's
really good. I think he's the best big in the Big Ten."
LaQuinton Ross scored 22 points for the Buckeyes (15-3, 2-3), on a
three-game losing streak for the first time in almost five years. The
other four Ohio State starters combined for only 19 points, and the
conference's second-worst free throw shooting team went 11 for 18 from
the foul line.
Minnesota beat Ohio State for the first time in seven meetings, a feat last accomplished at home in 2010.
"They were the tougher team, and that's how you win in the Big Ten," Buckeyes senior point guard Aaron Craft said.
The Buckeyes lost last week at Michigan State and then at home to
Iowa, hardly blemishes on their resume, but they're going to have to
snap out of this slide soon to keep up in the top-heavy Big Ten. The
Buckeyes fell to 25-4 following losses over the last five seasons. The
last time they dropped three in a row was February 2009, at Wisconsin,
at Northwestern and against Illinois.
Eliason wasn't the only one working inside for Minnesota. His backup,
Mo Walker, converted consecutive spin moves to draw fouls both times,
good for a five-point spurt. He even had a steal to set up a fast break a
few minutes later. Oto Osenieks added eight points, all near the
Eliason, the 6-foot-11 junior whose post game has begun to emerge as a
valuable complement to his shot-blocking and rebounding ability, was
recently named a captain.
"I've liked him since the day he got here," Ohio State coach Thad
Matta said. "The 17-foot jump shot surprised me a little bit, but that's
kind of how the night went."
Pitino was proud.
"He's playing with great confidence. Confidence is so big in this game," the coach said.
Then the Gophers went to their guards to break open the game down the stretch.
Andre Hollins swished a corner 3-pointer inside the 3-minute mark to
make it 55-46, and Austin Hollins followed with a steal and a layup to
push the lead to double digits.
The Gophers are in a relentless four-game stretch that's remarkable
even for this deep, difficult league. After losing in overtime at
fifth-ranked Michigan State last weekend, here came the grumpy Buckeyes
on a rare losing streak. Minnesota then plays at No. 14 Iowa on Sunday
and hosts Wisconsin, ranked third in the Associated Press poll this
week, next Wednesday.
Ohio State's man-to-man defense, which allowed a Big Ten-best 57.6
points per game entering the night, made open jump shots and driving
lanes nearly nonexistent for Minnesota in the first half. The Gophers
had eight turnovers in the first 8 minutes, but they came up with enough
steals, screens and back-door cuts to produce some offense.
Eliason powered up for a layup in traffic with 3:16 left before the
break and drew a foul on Marc Loving. Eliason missed the free throw, but
Osenieks soared in for the putback and a 27-21 lead for Minnesota.
"Just silly mistakes, man. They got a rebound off a free throw. A
rebound off a free throw where they had nobody on the line," Ross said.
"So stuff like that just can't happen, man. That was a big play in the
Ross, Ohio State's leading scorer, was up to his usual
all-over-the-court contributions. He flicked in a floater from the lane
with 2 seconds remaining to forge the tie. Then, early in the second
half, the lanky 6-foot-8 junior swished consecutive 3-pointers for the
Buckeyes to give them the lead again at 38-36.
He didn't have enough help. The Buckeyes shot 18 for 51 from the
floor, just 35.3 percent, and had 10 turnovers in the second half.