Turner sinks 7 free throws in final 64 seconds to hold off Gophers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The message, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said, is that his team has played a lot of good teams and isn't too bad itself.

Evan Turner made seven free throws in the final 64 seconds, leading Ohio State past No. 19 Minnesota 64-58 Saturday night for the Buckeyes' fifth win this season over a ranked opponent.

Two of the wins have come this week, with the Buckeyes (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) beating Purdue (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) 80-72 on Tuesday night.

"You look at the challenges this team has had," Matta said, referring to the loss of its most experienced starter (David Lighty) early in the season. "[Beating] five ranked teams and some of those have been on the road. You hope that it kind of says that these guys are playing some pretty good basketball -- and a heck of a schedule."

Turner finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Jon Diebler and William Buford each scored 11 points and B.J. Mullens had 10 for Ohio State. The Buckeyes won their fourth in a row while improving to 5-4 against ranked opponents.

The Buckeyes lost three of four games in late December and early January after opening 9-0. It took time to adapt to losing Lighty, who may miss the entire year with a broken bone in his foot.

"When we started going downward, our losses came when David Lighty got hurt and we were still trying to build our team and respond," Turner said. "It took time. We had a couple of bumps and bruises down the road but we finally got together and we're clicking. Everybody's contributing."

Blake Hoffarber, scoreless in the first half, tossed in 19 points -- on six 3-pointers and a foul associated with one of those made 3s -- for the Golden Gophers (18-5, 6-5). Damian Johnson added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Buckeyes never trailed after a 10-0 first-half spurt, but had to scratch and claw down the stretch to hang on to the lead.

Balance was one of the big keys.

"Offensively, we're hard to match up with," Diebler said. "We're a very versatile team. On offense, we've got a lot of weapons. We've got a lot of guys who can shoot and guy who can penetrate and our bigs are doing a really nice job inside right now. We're playing best when we have that balanced scoring."

Ohio State led by three at the half and stretched the lead to 38-31 on two free throws by Mullens at the 13:52 mark.

The Golden Gophers drew to within four points twice before the Buckeyes pulled away again. Simmons hit a 3 from the right corner off a Buford assist, then Diebler took a kick-out pass from Mullens and made another 3 from the left corner to push the lead to 46-36 with just under 9 minutes left.

With Hoffarber hitting three consecutive 3s, the Gophers pulled back to 49-45.

He was slumping coming in, having hit just seven shots behind the arc in 37 attempts in Minnesota's 10 Big Ten games. But he lit up the Buckeyes by making 6-of-10 3s -- launching a couple several feet behind the line.

"When he gets locked in, he's hard to stop," Smith said.

The Buckeyes finally put the clamps on him by having Diebler guard him everywhere while the rest of the Buckeyes tried to play a zone.

"Coach [Matta] just told me not to let him touch it, so I was chasing him around at the end," Diebler said.

Mullens dunked a follow of a missed 3 by Diebler before Johnson scored on a swing move underneath with 1:29 left to cut the lead to 57-54.

But Turner was fouled on a drive with 1:04 left and hit both shots, then did the same with 38.7 and 29.3 seconds left to swell the lead to 63-54. He later added another foul shot.

"When you've got a guy like Evan Turner, you put the ball in his hands and he can create or get to the free throw line the way he did, that makes it pretty tough," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.

Minnesota had won the last two meetings with the Buckeyes, including a 68-59 win at Williams Arena on Jan. 3. The Golden Gophers outrebounded the Buckeyes 42-30 in that game while collecting 15 offensive boards. But they held only a 38-31 edge Saturday night.

"We just had to draw a line and put our foot down," Turner said of the challenge in the second meeting. "It was going to be an all-out war."

The Buckeyes have won seven of their last 11 against ranked teams. When Minnesota is ranked, Ohio State is 12-12 against the Golden Gophers.

"We got back in it in the first half after they had taken the lead," Smith said. "But in the second half, we couldn't muster enough to pull it out."


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