for this game

Ohio State has strong second-half effort vs. Minnesota

Feb 18, 2007 - 10:34 PM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Greg Oden showed that his youth does not prevent him from learning a lesson quickly.

Oden scored 19 points and Ron Lewis added 16 as second-ranked Ohio State held fast to an early lead en route to an 85-67 Big Ten Conference victory over Minnesota.

Othello Hunter had 15 points and Ivan Harris added 14 for the Buckeyes (24-3, 12-1 Big Ten), who captured their 10th consecutive league game, tying for the longest streak in school history since 1971.

With Florida absorbing its first league loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday, Ohio State appears primed to capture the top spot in the USA Today/ESPN poll for the second time this season.

"To be honest with you, I haven't thought about being No. 1," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "My focus is to get us to play great team basketball, not talk about rankings or Big Ten titles."

The latest league road game was a more complete effort for Ohio State, which nearly had a 40-19 halftime advantage erased before squeaking out a 64-62 win at lowly Penn State on Wednesday. The Nittany Lions sit at the bottom of the Big Ten with an 1-11 record.

"We played a solid game," Matta said. "I thought this was one of our best efforts this season. I knew we needed to play great team basketball."

Facing another struggling squad in the Golden Gophers, the Buckeyes once again raced out to a strong halftime lead at 43-31 behind 56 percent (18-of-32) shooting and nine points from Oden.

"We said early we were going to make Greg Oden score," Minnesota interim coach Jim Molinari said. "We knew he was going to score and we were going to try to not give up threes. The problem is he was scoring a few, and after the 12-minute mark they scored a lot on us."

Ohio State maintained a sizable cushion in the second half until Jamal Abu-Shamala hit a 3-pointer and Lawrence McKenzie added a follow shot to close Minnesota within 47-40 with 15:17 remaining.

The Buckeyes, however, had an answer for the run, reeling off 18 of the game's next 19 points to pull ahead, 65-41, with 10:10 remaining. Lewis had nine points and Hunter added five during the game-sealing burst.

"Minnesota made a number of different runs, but we responded well," Matta said.

Oden, who finished 8-of-17 from the field with nine rebounds, added consecutive jumpers for an 81-56 advantage with 3:44 to play.

Both reserves, Lewis and Hunter combined to shoot 11-of-18 (61 percent) from the field and collect nine rebounds.

Freshman Mike Conley, Jr. had six points, 10 assists and five steals and classmate Daequan Cook added eight points and five boards for Ohio State, which held a 40-30 advantage in rebounds and 30-25 edge in points in the paint.

"A lot of them are pros," Molinari said about the Buckeyes' depth. "They really have six perimeter players and three bigs. If you look down their team in the future, I think Oden, Mike Conley, Jr. and Daequan Cook, you're going to see them in the NBA."

McKenzie scored 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting for Minnesota (9-18, 3-10), posting his second straight 20-point effort. The junior guard also handed out 10 assists.

Going 3-of-7 from the arc, McKenzie has now connected on a 3-pointer in 35 consecutive games, including his final game before transferring from Oklahoma.

Despite the streak of consistent long-range shooting, Molinari was more impressed about the 3-point shot that McKenzie passed up.

"I think the last play (of the game) was indicative of how Lawrence is developing," he said. "He got the ball, and he had a three and then he made the pass to Jamal, who hit a three. I think Lawrence is really, really trying to do things that help our team win."

Abu-Shamala added 14 points for the Golden Gophers, who absorbed their fifth straight loss.

    --- --- -----
    OHIO ST (2) 43 42 85
    MINNESOTA 31 36 67 FINAL

    Feb 18 2:55 PM

    OHIO ST (2) 43

    Feb 18 1:55 PM