COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In five minutes of postgame remarks, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino used the words “inexplicable” and “inconceivable.”
It’s reached the stage for the Golden Gophers where it’s hard to find words to describe what’s going wrong.
Andre Hollins scored 13 points and DeAndre Mathieu added 12 but Minnesota blew a 10-point lead at the half and a 12-point edge after the break in a 64-46 loss at No. 23 Ohio State on Saturday night.
Up 28-18 at halftime, the Golden Gophers (17-11, 6-9 Big Ten) were outscored 46-18 in the second half. Ohio State’s Sam Thompson, averaging 7.1 points a game, scored almost as much as the Minnesota team did in the final 20 minutes, scoring 16 of his 19 points.
“Obviously, great first half, awful second half,” said Pitino, in his first year with the Golden Gophers. “We highjack ourselves. We don’t allow ourselves to win. We do some things turnover-wise that are just inexplicable and they lead to baskets for them. You can’t do that versus a very good team.”
The Golden Gophers led 28-18 at the half, shooting 42 percent (10 of 24) while limiting Ohio State to 27 percent (6 of 22).
They broke out to a 7-0 lead against the listless Buckeyes, with Joey King hitting a shot inside and a 3 to open the scoring.
The Buckeyes countered to tie it with a 7-0 run of their own.
Minnesota finished the half with an 11-2 run to build the big lead. The Gophers scored on five consecutive possessions – Mathieu hit a bucket and two foul shots in the middle of the run – to push the lead to double figures.
King and Hollins each had seven points and Mathieu six at the break.
On their first possession of the second half, Mathieu drove right through the heart of the Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) defense for an easy layup and a 12-point lead.
But then everything went haywire.
The Buckeyes ran off 17 consecutive points over the next 6 minutes, 45 seconds.
Still, the game wasn’t out of reach. The Gophers trailed just 35-32 after King scored inside. But then Thompson scored 10 points in a row for the Buckeyes to keep the visitors at bay. With a crowd of 18,809 now cheering every move by the Buckeyes, they pulled away and led by as many as 21.
Minnesota has lost six of eight to slide off the NCAA bubble. The Golden Gophers beat the Buckeyes 63-53 at home on Jan. 16 by forcing 18 turnovers and grabbing 15 more rebounds.
This time Ohio State won the board battle 35-25 and had only 11 turnovers.
“I would say this game reminded me of last game a little bit in the second half,” Pitino said, referring to a disappointing 62-49 loss at home to lowly Illinois on Wednesday night. “In the first half, we were composed, we believed we were going to win. Then in the second half, it was like (against) Illinois – we were just doing some inconceivable things.”
Pitino said the only thing his club can do now is try to regroup against Iowa at home in its next game.
“We just have to stay positive, stay focused and get excited about another opportunity on Tuesday,” he said.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP