Butler scores 27 as Ohio State holds off Minnesota, 76-60
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Jamar Butler scored 27 points and Ohio State relied on some big second-half defensive plays and a technical against Minnesota coach Tubby Smith to beat the Golden Gophers 76-60 on Saturday night.
Butler, who had a streak of 38 consecutive made free throws end, also had nine assists in 38 minutes. Evan Turner added 17 points and Kosta Koufos had 15 for the Buckeyes (14-6, 5-2 Big Ten), who won their second in a row after dropping three straight.
Dan Coleman led the Golden Gophers (12-6, 2-4) with 14 points with Lawrence McKenzie adding 10. They have lost their last three.
Minnesota, down 19-3 at the outset, scratched and clawed to get back to 44-41 on two free throws by Jonathan Williams at the 13:14 mark of the second half.
But the Buckeyes slowly pulled away, thanks to a curious call which led to the technical foul on Smith, who was stopped on his third try at his 400th career coaching win.
Butler hit a 14-foot jumper on the left wing, then later tossed an over-the-shoulder alley-oop pass to Matt Terwilliger for a dunk to make it 48-42.
Travis Busch had the ball for Minnesota in the left corner when it appeared Terwilliger pushed him to the floor from behind. Instead of a foul on Terwilliger, Busch was called for traveling. That set off Smith, who was whistled for the technical as he ranted on the sideline.
Butler, hitting 96 percent of his free throws this season, then hit both technical foul shots.
On Minnesota’s next trip down the floor, Terwilliger tipped the ball away and Turner saved it from going out of bounds near midcourt, passing behind his back to Jon Diebler for a breakaway dunk.
Diebler then stole the ball the next time Minnesota came down the court and fed Turner for another dunk and a 54-42 lead.
Moments later, Butler bumped into a Minnesota player as the teams crossed paths during a timeout and was assessed a technical—setting off Ohio State coach Thad Matta during the timeout.
But the Buckeyes maintained their lead after that wild minute-and-a-half segment.
The Buckeyes broke out to an 11-0 lead, holding Minnesota scoreless for the opening 3 1/2 minutes. They led by as many as 16 points as the Golden Gophers struggled to get into their offense or even get off a clear shot.
But Minnesota bounced back, thanks to three 3-pointers by Westbrook.
Smith, in his first year coaching Minnesota, is 399-150 in 17 seasons at Tulsa (79-43), Georgia (45-19), Kentucky (263-83) and Minnesota. He had never before had a team play Ohio State.