COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Moments after Minnesota had lost for the fourth time in five games, 71-45 at No. 18 Ohio State, coach Tubby Smith was asked if he still felt he had an NCAA-caliber team.
"You lose by 21 (at Iowa) and then this one tonight you get beat up like this it's not pretty, that's for certain. That's not going to sit well with many people who are looking at you and evaluating you," Smith said. "But I still think we have a very good resume. We're just going through a tough time right now. This league is pretty good. If you don't bring it every second, every day and every night, then this is the result."
The problems for the Golden Gophers (18-9, 6-8 Big Ten) just seem to multiply.
Rodney Williams, hampered by a shoulder injury, returned to the lineup. But rather than reinvigorating the team, he picked up two early fouls, went 0 for 3 in 8 minutes and didn't score.
On top of that, the Gophers had a season-high 24 turnovers - many of them unforced - and shot just 29.2 percent from the field.
"You get beat bad when you don't make shots," Smith said. "It's a combination of shooting poorly and turning the ball over - that's a perfect storm for getting beat."
It was hard to tell from the outcome, but both teams had been struggling. Both had lost three of four coming in and both had been beaten badly on Sunday. Minnesota lost 72-51 at Iowa while Ohio State was getting run out of Kohl Center with a 71-49 beatdown.
But the Buckeyes responded far better.
Deshaun Thomas overcame a slow start to score 19 points and the Buckeyes used a 16-0 second-half run to wallop the offensively-challenged Gophers.
"We got knocked down, but it's always good to pick yourself back up and regroup," Thomas said. "We did that tonight."
Shannon Scott added 11 points and LaQuinton Ross 10 for the Buckeyes, who have won the last six meetings with the Golden Gophers overall and the last six in Columbus.
Thomas had just two points (on 1 of 5 shooting from the field) in the opening 16 minutes. But then he gained his footing and starting making shots.
After producing five late points which helped the Buckeyes gain a 29-23 halftime lead, he started the second half with a 3 from the left wing. He later dropped back behind the line after sitting a pick and took a pass from Craft for another 3 and a 37-28 lead.
Andre Hollins hit a 15-foot jumper from the left side for Minnesota with 16:15 left - but the Gophers didn't have another field goal until Oto Osenieks banked in a short shot with 5:36 left.
During Ohio State's 16-0 run, Thomas and Shannon Scott each had six points, with LaQuinton Ross and Evan Ravenel each adding baskets.
By the end of the spurt, the Buckeyes were well in command.
Osenieks was reminded that this is the second year in a row the Golden Gophers have gotten off to a fast start but then faded. They were ranked as high as No. 8 after winning 15 of their first 16 games this season.
"Yeah, but we're going to get over this," said Osenieks, who had 10 points. "We're going to learn from our mistakes in the past. We'll make changes. We'll get over it."
Hollins had 11 points for Minnesota, which surrendered a staggering 26 points on their turnovers. Ohio State also had a 20-2 advantage in fastbreak points.
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta praised his defense, but conceded that Minnesota also had a hand in its own undoing.
"But they (the Gophers) went cold," he said. "They had some good looks at the basket that didn't go down."
It doesn't get any easier for Minnesota, either. They take on No. 1 Indiana at home on Monday, then entertain Penn State before closing the regular season at Nebraska and Purdue.
At some point, Smith said he's hoping his veteran players take control of the team and turn things around.
"We're just not showing the mental toughness we really need to compete," he said. "Tonight was a real pathetic display of offensive basketball. We're looking for the leadership within the team to step up. It's not like we're young and inexperienced - but we're certainly playing that way."
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