Men’s hoops not panicking over 1-2 record in last three games

by Jabari Ritchie

Although Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has gone 1-2 over its last three games – including a 58-50 loss to North Carolina-Wilmington on Tuesday – the Gophers aren’t panicking.

Still, after surrendering the lead late in a Nov. 27 loss at Wake Forest and failing to put Texas-Pan American away until midway through the second half Saturday, Minnesota coach Dan Monson said it’s time for his team to start learning from its errors.

“We’ve got to get back on track,” Monson said before Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t think we’re miles away, but I also don’t think we’re where we need to be.

“That’s a positive, that we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. The problem is those experiences in the last couple games haven’t helped us improve.”

Late in the second half of its loss to the Demon Deacons, Minnesota (4-2) looked as if it would beat a top-25 team and open with a 4-0 record.

But ever since Wake Forest pulled ahead with less than two minutes remaining, the Gophers have had trouble finishing games.

Minnesota shot 39 percent from the field, gave up 23 offensive rebounds and had five more turnovers than assists over its past two games.

“It’s easy to be a good teammate, it’s easy to be a good coach and it’s easy for all those things when you’re winning, when things are going good and when shots are falling,” Monson said. “This is when we find out what we’re made of and this is when you find out, as a coach, if you can help them get through these kinds of times.”

The Gophers, who led both Wake Forest and UNC-Wilmington at the half, look to be more comfortable on the court.

During the past three games, Minnesota has allowed opponents to go on several long runs.

“Sometimes we’re so concentrated on trying to make the perfect pass and make the ‘home run’ play,” said junior guard Kevin Burleson, who had eight points and five assists Tuesday. “Instead, sometimes, you’ve just got to play basketball. Sometimes people are tentative and they don’t want to shoot. It’s little things like that.”

Facing Georgia and Oregon – teams with a combined record of 9-3 – in its next two games, the Gophers are looking to build from their inconsistent performances.

“Last year we had a loss like this, but not to this degree,” said sophomore forward Michael Bauer on Tuesday. “We reacted in a positive way and that brought our team closer together.”

After losing to Georgetown in the fifth game of the season last year, Minnesota went on to win all eight of its remaining non-conference games.

“If we are able to do the same thing, I think it will be a wake-up call,” Bauer said. “But if we don’t accept that this is unacceptable and that we cannot afford to play like this ever again, we could have a whole season like this.”

Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]