8:00 PM ET, February 25, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Starting out with a 10-0 deficit on the road in the Big Ten often is too much to overcome, but Ohio State had the good fortune of playing at last-place Minnesota.Tony Stockman had 21 points and four steals to help Ohio State come back from its shaky start and defeat Minnesota 70-59 Wednesday night."We just started being more aggressive," said Stockman, who helped the Buckeyes (13-13, 5-8 Big Ten) outscore the Gophers by 20 points in the final 25 minutes of the game."We started to understand what they were doing to us, and as we got more confident we started playing more aggressive and getting more steals," he said.J.J. Sullinger added 15 points and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham scored 12 for Ohio State, which watched the cold-shooting Gophers (2-12, 10-16) score the game's first 10 points before returning to their errant ways.Minnesota -- which shot a season-low 29.6 percent in Saturday's loss to Purdue -- connected on just 29.2 percent of their shots in the pivotal second half and shot 35.7 percent for the game.The Gophers went 3-for-25 from 3-point range and committed 14 turnovers."They missed some shots they probably could have made," Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. "But when we played man-to-man we gave them a little extra space on the perimeter and we were a lot more aggressive in our zone."Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries, the Big Ten's leading scorer and rebounder, was just 1-for-10 from the field in the first half and 4-for-18 overall against a sagging defense that could afford to hassle him with the Gophers posing no threat from the outside. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Minnesota."When Kris plays well down low, obviously something is going to open up on the perimeter," Minnesota guard Ben Johnson said. "We're going to see this for a while. We just have to hang in there."Minnesota led by as much as 12 midway through the first half, but it began to unravel for the Gophers with five minutes to play in the half. The Gophers turned the ball over on four out of their last five trips down the floor and Ohio State took advantage, ending the half with a 12-4 run that cut Minnesota's lead to 30-29.Ricardo Billings keyed the Buckeye spurt with a steal and fast-break dunk, followed by a 3-pointer. Stockman then hit another 3 and his steal and basket in the final 10 seconds capped the rally."I just felt we were in great shape and miraculously we were only down one at the half, the way that half started out," O'Brien said.Ohio State took its first lead on its first possession of the second half when Fuss-Cheatham converted on a driving layup, and the Buckeyes cruised from there behind 48 points from their three-man backcourt. The guards' play helped offset a quiet night from center Velimir Radinovic and forward Terence Dials, who each scored just six points."I was thrilled with the way our three starting guards played today," O'Brien said. "Our two big guys struggled because (Minnesota) took them out of the game with their defense. But in one of these games, we'll get good numbers from our big guys and our guards."Minnesota coach Dan Monson was frustrated by his team's play, but not the players' effort, which has been a recurring theme for Minnesota this season."I thought we played hard. And I know people are going to blast me for saying that," Monson said. "As a coach, I want to make sure they play hard down the stretch. I thought they did that. We had some turnovers where we were trying to make plays that we're not capable of making."
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press