The Minnesota Golden Gophers looked like they were going to be dominated midway through the first half of Tuesday night's Big Ten meeting with the Ohio St. Buckeyes. It didn't turn out to be as bad as it could have been thank to Tubby Smith switching to a stifling zone defense, but the Jared Sullinger and William Buford proved to be too much as the Gophers dropped a 78-68 decision at Williams Arena.
It seemed like the dagger came in the first half, when Sullinger drilled a three-pointer to put the Buckeyes up 35-14 with just under six minutes left until halftime, but the Gophers were able to cut the lead to 12 in time for intermission and kept it respectable the rest of the way. Respectable still amounted in a loss, however, dropping the Gophers to 17-9 this season with a 5-8 record in the conference.
Rodney Williams led the Gophers with 21 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, but it wasn't enough to counteract the impact Sullinger and Buford had on the game. Buford actually had the better game statistically with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but Sullinger's 23 points and eight rebounds -- while making 10-of-12 from the charity stripe -- was nothing to scoff at.
There were positives to be found in the Gophers loss, however, as Julian Welch finished with 11 points and nine rebounds while Oto Osienaks and Elliott Eliason both came off the bench to provide not-terrible production up front despite being overmatched by the Ohio State bigs.
With the loss, the Gophers will need to impress quite a bit the rest of the month in order to be considered for an NCAA Tournament berth -- and that won't be easy, either, considering they still have games with three ranked opponents in Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin sandwiched between Northwestern and Nebraska.