COLUMBUS, Ohio - Sunday afternoon's backdrop was perfect for a little something special at Value City Arena with the 1960 national championship basketball team in attendance. In front of a national television audience Evan Turner showed why he is one of the nation's top players throwing in 19 points, 8 assists and four steals while William Buford shot the lights out on 10-14 shooting from the field as Ohio State (16-6, 6-3) routed Minnesota (13-8, 4-5) 85-63 to split the regular season series.
The Buckeyes shot a blistering 73-percent from the field in the first half and the team average was up in the neighborhood of 75-percent for about 3/4 of the game. Jon Diebler (19 points) and David Lighty (11 points) both scored in double figures for Ohio State while Dallas Lauderdale was big on the boards with eight rebounds to go with three blocks. Rodney Williams led Minnesota off of the bench with 13 points.
Sunday's result was a far cry of what happened the last time these two teams met when the Bucks were outscored by 12 points in the second half in Turner's return to the hardwood as Blake Hoffarber went nuts with 27 points with seven triples.
"We want to win every game but at that time we were just rebuilding," Turner said. "Coach Matta kept saying that we were putting the band back together. They are a great team with a great coach we were just fortunate enough to stop them today."
Ohio State held the Minnesota guard down on Sunday to a total of ten points and more importantly to 2-4 shooting from behind the arc.
"I think (Hoffarber) is the best shooter in college basketball and he was obviously a focal point of what we were trying to get established of not letting him get going," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "They open every game trying to get him going and we attempted to tell our guys that we can't fall for it and leave him open."
But any teams knows that you can't mortgage the farm to guard just one player and the defense itself worked today and as a result of that was able to hold Hoffarber, and the Gophers, in check.
"We just tried to play our normal defense," Turner said. "(Plus) a lot of ball pressure and I think it was a team thing just stopping them in general. We really weren't focused on him as much but we knew that if he could hit some shots it would be dangerous but we pretty much just played our normal defense."
The Buckeyes led at one point by 28 points and did it with a number of high flying dunks, alley-oops and fast break points. Ohio State scored 16 officially off of the break but it seemed like a much higher number during the game.
"We got a lot of easy buckets in transition," Diebler said. "It started with our defense, playing good defense and getting clean rebounds. With (Evan) at point, he is able to rebound and push the ball to start the break for us. When we get into transition it really emphasizes them to get back and we are very confident in our half court came too. When those two are kind of clicking on the same page we feel really good."
And unfortunately for the Gophers, they had the best seat in the house to see the Buckeyes starting to put it all together.
"I was really impressed with the way they played and I was not impressed at all with the way that we played," Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said.
Ohio State took a 14 point lead into the halftime locker room and the team knew that they couldn't let their foot off of the gas after seeing leads disappear after the break, most recently a 12 point lead at West Virginia.
"I challenged the guys to get off to a good start and I thought they did a very good job of that," Matta said.
Ohio State will play its next two games at home with Penn State coming in on Wednesday night and the home stand ending with a game against Iowa on the 7th of February.
The Bucks find themselves 6-3 in the Big Ten at the halfway point and in a three way tie for second in the league with Wisconsin and Illinois as everyone looks up at Michigan State at the top of the league. Matta admitted that there will only be about 10 minutes set aside to celebrate this win as attention turns ahead to the next one as the season kicks into its latter stages.