Russell, Ohio State beat Minnesota 79-73 in Big Ten tourney
CHICAGO (AP) — When Ohio State got into trouble in the second half, D’Angelo Russell stepped up.
It looks as if the freshman’s smooth all-court game is a perfect match for March.
Russell scored 23 points, Shannon Scott had a career-high 21 and Ohio State beat Minnesota 79-73 in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday night.
Marc Loving added 12 points as the sixth-seeded Buckeyes (23-9) bounced back from Sunday’s 72-48 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin in the season finale. Next up is a quarterfinal matchup with third-seeded Michigan State, which beat Ohio State 59-56 on Feb. 14.
“We want to start playing our best basketball right now,” Russell said.
Russell, who broke a nail on his left hand in the first half, also had five rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and a steal. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year was 7 for 16 from the field and 6 for 6 at the line.
“He’s one of those guys that he wants people in the crowd,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He wants spotlights. He wants competition. He wants to play the best. That makes him special.”
DeAndre Mathieu scored 16 points for 11th-seeded Minnesota (18-15), which advanced with an 80-68 victory over Rutgers on Wednesday. Andre Hollins had 13 points, and Carlos Morris finished with 12.
“You know, we were right there,” Hollins said. “Russell is a great player.”
The Buckeyes and Golden Gophers were tied at 42 before Russell scored five straight points on a layup and 3-pointer, sparking a 10-2 run. Jae’Sean Tate’s foul shot made it 52-44 with 14 minutes left.
Russell ran along the baseline to get open for another 3 with 11:53 remaining, lifting Ohio State to a 57-46 lead. He went 3 for 5 from long range in the second half after missing each of his five 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes.
“It just clicks for me,” said Russell, who also credited Matta for pulling him aside and telling him it was time to take over. “And my teammates were looking for me and putting me in position to score.”
After Minnesota pulled within two on Mathieu’s three-point play, Russell passed to Loving for a layup, blocked Maurice Walker’s shot and made two foul shots to make it 69-63 with three minutes left.
The Buckeyes shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded Minnesota 35-28 in their fourth victory in the last five games.
“We all made plays down the stretch, and we just needed stops defensively, and they hit big shots,” Walker said.
Taking the court after a ho-hum start to the tournament, Ohio State and Minnesota treated the sleepy crowd at the United Center to a tight, fast-paced first half. The Buckeyes used an 8-0 run to open a 24-16 lead, but Mathieu got the Golden Gophers right back in the game with a couple of acrobatic plays.
Mathieu had a slick reverse layup and a fast-break finger roll to help tie it at 26. The 5-foot-9 reserve used his quickness to slip behind 6-11 center Amir Williams for a tip-in off a missed free throw, giving Minnesota a 32-29 lead with 3½ minutes remaining.
After Ohio State went back in front by three, Mathieu drove inside to set up Nate Mason’s tying 3 in the final seconds. Mathieu had six points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal while logging 11 minutes in the first half.
Minnesota: F Joey King finished with 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting. He made six 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the first game against Rutgers. ... The Golden Gophers had six steals, running the single-season school record to 313.
Ohio State: Scott has scored in double figures in four of the last five games. But the senior guard was 4 for 12 from the field in the loss to the Badgers. ... The Buckeyes improved to 25-10 in the Big Ten tourney.
It was Matta’s 298th win at Ohio State, breaking a tie with Fred Taylor for most victories in school history. His players presented him with a jersey with the No. 298 after the game.
Minnesota was all but eliminated from consideration for the NCAA Tournament with the loss. It could draw an NIT bid.
Ohio State faces Michigan State on Friday.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap