COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—After a month of not being able to hit a shot, Je’Kel Foster broke out of his lengthy slump in a big way.
Foster made a career-high seven 3-pointers in eight attempts and scored 25 points to lead No. 20 Ohio State to a 67-53 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.
“It feels real good to get back my stroke,” the senior guard said. “The basket’s still 10 feet tall. I just tried to take my time and knock my shots down.”
Foster’s only miss behind the arc came on the Buckeyes’ first shot after they won the opening tip.
He was 8-of-10 from the field, made both of his free throws and had three assists and two steals in 37 minutes.
Asked if Foster was one of the few people in the conference who could put on such a shooting performance, Minnesota coach Dan Monson said, “I haven’t seen anybody go 7-for-8 against us on 3s, so I guess that would qualify.”
Foster had hit just 37 percent of his shots from the field, 33 percent on 3-pointers, and averaged 10 points in Big Ten play after shooting 65 percent and 57 percent while scoring 16.5 points a game in the Buckeyes’ games leading up to conference play.
“Je’Kel Foster had an incredible game,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Once we got going there a little bit we were looking to go to him.”
Terence Dials had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Buckeyes (16-3, 5-3 Big Ten), while Jamar Butler added 10 points.
The Buckeyes finished 9-of-20 on 3-pointers and shot 59 percent from the field in the second half to pull away.
Freshman Jamal Abu-Shamala had a career-best 16 points and Adam Boone added 10 for the Gophers (10-9, 1-7).
Minnesota beat the Buckeyes in both meetings last season, a fact that nettled Ohio State’s players all week.
“We had to live with two tough losses to those guys a year ago,” Matta said.
Dials added, “They had confidence coming in because they beat us twice last year. They came in here thinking they could win.”
Minnesota, which had a 30-24 rebound advantage, stayed in contact with the Buckeyes until J.J. Sullinger scored on a follow midway through the second half and Foster made a 3-pointer in front of Ohio State’s bench off an inbounds play.
That made it 52-42 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining and the Golden Gophers never got closer than seven points again.
“There were stretches of the game when neither team scored,” Dials said. “With the type of defense they play, you just have to fight through it. We did a good job of doing that.”
Vincent Grier, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds as Minnesota won in overtime at Value City Arena a year ago, was limited to nine points and seven rebounds on Saturday.
“We made our guys realize the last three days (at practice) how good he is and how he likes to score,” Matta said. “Last year here we had a lead and then he got going.”
Ohio State led 33-28 after a sloppy, physical first half. Over one 2 1/2 -minute span, the teams traded seven turnovers.
Foster was clearly the difference, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers after the early miss. He had half of the Buckeyes’ points as they took a 24-17 lead by the 7:30 mark.
“I just tried to get down the court and get open before they could find me,” Foster said.
The Buckeyes are content to be a game out of first in the Big Ten midway through the conference schedule.
“We’re happy with the way things are going,” Sullinger said. “You can look at our three losses and can say that it shouldn’t be that way. But there’s a lot of basketball left, and we have yet to play our best basketball.”