While the offense was slow coming out of the gates, the defense held the Buckeyes to one field goal in the first eight and a half minutes of the game which allowed the Gophers to build an early lead at Williams Arena they almost gave back but never fully relinquished as they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 78-68.
Despite a poor game from their junior leader, point guard Nate Mason, Minnesota found just enough offense from freshman Amir Coffey and senior Akeem Springs to protect the lead throughout the second half even when the Gophers defense soften and allowed Ohio State to creep back into the game. While the Barn crowd was invigorated by an exciting run of offensive play in the first half and the presence of new head football coach PJ Fleck, the Buckeyes were persistent enough to keep the crowd at bay for a majority of the second half.
Foul trouble to both teams’ frontcourts was a concern as the second half worn on and the Buckeyes made things very uncomfortable for the home crowd but down the stretch Mason shook off a generally terrible game and Springs and Coffey did just enough to finish off Thad Matta’s undisciplined squad.
Nate Mason had a bad game, both as a scorer and distributor, but he made some plays on offense down the stretch. Therein lies a key difference between this year and last year. This team, by following their floor leader Mason, hasn’t wilted down the stretch when things have gotten hairy. This game was another fine example of Mason knocking down free throws and making the right plays on offense when the Gophers needed it the most.
Amir Coffey was a revelation again, continuing to dazzle the Dinkytown crowd with dunks, passes, and 3-pointers to the tune of 19 points (7-11 from the field), 4 rebonuds, and 5 assists.
Lastly, Akeem Springs played a huge part in the victory, making a big three when things were touch-and-go and getting 18 points on 10 shots. He also had 5 assists and played a role on the defensive success when the Gophers had obtained a 18 point lead.
A three game winning streak in conference and the Gophers now find themselves in a four-way tie for first in the Big Ten.