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Marcus R. Fuller / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published February 22 2014

Second half dooms Gophers against OSU

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Gophers have avoided talking about the NCAA tournament all season, but entering Saturday’s game against Ohio State, they knew they were close to falling off the bubble with another loss.

They played with a sense of urgency early to take a 10-point halftime lead. They huddled up in the tunnel at Value City Arena before the second half and yelled “Finish!”

But they did exactly the opposite, getting throttled during a 44-11 run and falling 64-46 to the No. 24 Buckeyes in front of 18,809.

“We hijack ourselves,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “We don’t allow ourselves to win. We do some things turnover-wise that are just inexplicable, and they lead to baskets for them. And you can’t do that against a very good team.”

The Gophers (17-11, 6-9), who lost for the eighth time in their past 12 games, likely will drop out of NCAA tournament projections heading into Tuesday’s game against Iowa at Williams Arena.

If the slide continues, Minnesota will need a run in the Big Ten tournament to reach the Big Dance, as it did by making the conference tournament final in Indianapolis in 2010.

There are opportunities left, with two ranked opponents – Iowa and Michigan – in the last three games. But the Gophers have shown no signs lately of being capable of upsetting teams that already beat them this season.

“Coach always tells us how ‘are we going to react when we get hit in the mouth?’” said junior point guard DeAndre Mathieu, who finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting. “Today we crumbled. We didn’t fight at all. Second half, they just kept pouring it on. We got to get tougher. That’s one of our main things.”

Mathieu had 40 family members and friends in attendance from Atlanta and his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. He bounced back from a three-point, three-turnover performance in an embarrassing 62-49 loss to Illinois at home Wednesday.

But Minnesota, which hasn’t won at Ohio State since 2005, looked even worse in the second half Saturday than it did against Illinois. The Gophers had nine of their 13 turnovers and shot just 29 percent from the field (7 for 24) after halftime.

MINNESOTA (46): D.Mathieu 5-10 2-2 12, Jy.King 4-11 0-0 9, An.Hollins 3-4 4-4 13, Au.Hollins 1-4 0-0 2, Eliason 2-5 0-0 4, Mu.Walker 2-3 0-0 4, Mi.Smith 0-5 2-2 2, D.McNeil 0-2 0-0 0, Osenieks 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 8-8 46.

OHIO ST. (64): La.Ross 4-10 1-1 9, A.Craft 2-7 2-2 6, L.Smith Jr 4-11 4-4 13, Am.Williams 3-3 1-1 7, Sm.Thompson 7-12 3-5 19, Sn.Scott 3-6 4-4 10, T.McDonald 0-0 0-0 0, Della Valle 0-1 0-0 0, Loving 0-2 0-0 0, Goldstein 0-0 0-0 0, Lorbach 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 15-17 64.

Half: M 28, OSU 18. 3-Point Goals: Minnesota 4-17 (An.Hollins 3-3, Jy.King 1-5, Au.Hollins 0-1, D.Mathieu 0-1, D.McNeil 0-1, Osenieks 0-2, Mi.Smith 0-4), Ohio St. 3-14 (Sm.Thompson 2-5, L.Smith Jr 1-5, Della Valle 0-1, Loving 0-1, La.Ross 0-1, Sn.Scott 0-1). Fouled out: Mu.Walker. Rebounds: Minnesota 25 (Eliason, Au.Hollins 4), Ohio St. 35 (La.Ross, A.Craft, L.Smith Jr 6). Assists: Minnesota 7 (D.Mathieu 3), Ohio St. 12 (A.Craft 5). Total Fouls: Minnesota 16 (Mu.Walker 5), Ohio St. 12 (Am.Williams, Sm.Thompson, A.Craft, L.Smith Jr, T.McDonald 2). A—18,809.