Scoggins: Unmasked truth shows Buckeyes are bigger, better

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2012 - 1:12 PM

Ohio State lived up to its lofty ranking simply by putting its talent on display against the Gophers.


Ohio State's Jared Sullinger kept the Gophers' Andre Ingram and Joe Coleman at arm's length on Tuesday night. Sulliger had 23 points and eight rebounds in the Buckeyes' 78-68 victory.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Gophers coach Tubby Smith came up with a brilliant idea on the eve of his team's game against sixth-ranked Ohio State.

Maybe, Smith said deadpanned, the Gophers should make a mask of injured forward Trevor Mbakwe's face and have Ralph Sampson wear it. A year ago, Mbakwe bumped, banged and traded blows with Ohio State's wide-load forward Jared Sullinger, leaving the Buckeyes star with a bloody nose after one meeting.

Unfortunately for the Gophers, the injured Mbakwe was unavailable to tackle that assignment Tuesday night. He was in street clothes at the end of the bench, putting that responsibility on Sampson's shoulders, which was enough to make any coach queasy. Hence, Smith's mask idea.

"Make him think it's Trevor," Smith said.

The way things began, it looked as if Tubby should've molded masks of Trent Tucker, Kevin McHale, Mychal Thompson and Jim Brewer as well. That might have helped.

As it stood, the current collection of Gophers simply were overmatched. Any attempt to analyze Ohio State's 78-68 victory at Williams Arena should begin and end with this premise: One team has lots of talent, the other doesn't.

It's that simple.

The Buckeyes are bigger, faster, more athletic and more skilled. In fact, the Gophers probably have only one player -- Rodney Williams -- who could start for the Buckeyes, and even that's debatable.

The Gophers certainly deserve some credit for making the score reasonably close after a dismal start, but the Buckeyes also looked as if they put their game on cruise control after building a 21-point lead. They stopped being aggressive on offense and settled for three-pointers, especially William Buford. And they tried things on defense that coach Thad Matta admitted he hadn't seen all season.

"I'm not exactly sure what we were doing," he said. "It will be good to get back and take a look at the film so they can explain what they were doing."

The difference in talent level between the teams looked seismic for most of the first half. At one point during that stretch, Lenzelle Smith missed a free throw, got his own rebound and scored on a reverse layup. You don't see that too often.

"At the very beginning, I didn't think we were going to miss a shot," Matta said.

Even as the Gophers chipped away at the lead, the Buckeyes never really looked in danger of losing control. They just either made a shot, grabbed a rebound or got a defensive stop whenever the time called for it. That's what good teams do, particularly on the road. It also doesn't hurt to have a 1-2 combination like Buford and Sullinger.

"I was never at ease until the horn sounded," Matta said.

He might have been the only one in The Barn who felt that way. The Gophers needed a monster effort from Sampson, their senior, but it didn't happen, which was fairly predictable. He picked up his second foul against Sullinger 6 minutes, 23 seconds into the game and went to the bench for the rest of the half. He collected his third foul 1:25 into the second half and played only 12 minutes total. He finished with four points, four fouls and two rebounds.

The Gophers realized Sampson had no chance defending the 6-9, 265-pound Sullinger by himself in the post. He needed help. Lots of it.

The Gophers wanted to double-team Sullinger when he caught the ball in the post, hoping to force the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible and not allow him to establish his position. They also wanted to throw different looks at him.

Sullinger spent as much time on the perimeter as he did inside in the first half. He took only 11 shots for the game and finished with 23 points (10 on free throws), eight rebounds and only one turnover. Matta described Sullinger's performance as "intelligent," meaning he didn't force things.

Gophers freshman point guard Andre Hollins figured out one way to slow Sullinger in the second half. With no one open on an inbounds play, Hollins rifled the ball into Sullinger's gut to avoid a five-second call. Sullinger tumbled to the floor, dazed but unhurt.

Hey, it beats wearing a mask.

Chip Scoggins

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Tulane 11:30 AM
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Marshall 1:00 PM
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Utah 2:30 PM
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Texas State 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question