Yellow Jackets push ‘U’ hoops to brink, lose 64-63

by Anthony Maggio

On Saturday, forward Michael Bauer beat a team from Georgia at the last second, but Wednesday night was Rick Rickert’s turn.

After a sloppy but competitive 39 minutes and 53 seconds of basketball, Rickert got the ball in the post, turned and swished a seven-foot baseline jumper with 6.3 seconds left in the game.

Rickert’s 16th and 17th points gave Minnesota’s men’s basketball team a 64-63 lead over Georgia Tech, which the Gophers (3-0) held on to in the final seconds to win their second-straight nail biter.

On the Yellow Jackets (3-1) final possession, guard Jarrett Jack had the ball knocked away by Kevin Burleson, and guard Marvin Lewis’ desperation heave at the buzzer rimmed out, sealing the win for Minnesota.

“Time was running down, and they got it to me and I had to take it to the basket and I made it,” Rickert said. “Then we had to get a defensive stop and we did.”

Defensively, both teams employed a successful full-court press. Georgia Tech forced the Gophers to commit 20 turnovers on the night. Minnesota came into the game with 19 turnovers on the season.

But early on, the Gophers press wreaked havoc on the Yellow Jackets.

Minnesota forced seven Georgia Tech turnovers in the first five and a half minutes and 14 in the first half alone.

The Gophers struggled early offensively, but center Jerry Holman kept Minnesota afloat.

“(Holman) did a tremendous job,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “We put a great deal of emphasis on Rickert as well as Michael Bauer.”

While Bauer was held scoreless for the game, Holman took advantage of his quickness in the post.

After missing his first jumper, Holman went 6-for-6 the rest of the half, scoring on jump hooks in the lane and a few thunderous two-handed dunks.

“I had to keep on taking it to them,” Holman said. “After I saw how easy I went to the hole and scored the first time, I knew I could continue to do it.”

Holman continued to attack the paint in the second half and helped ignite a crucial 9-0 run with 8:42 left in the second half to give Minnesota a two-point lead just one minute and 20 seconds later.

Holman finished the game with a game-high 21 points, a team-high seven rebounds and three blocks, and three assists.

“(With Minnesota) you’ve got to kind of pick who is going to be on that night,” Hewitt said. “Unfortunately for us we picked the wrong guy.”

Although they won, the Gophers looked sluggish offensively and showed signs of frustration with Georgia Tech’s aggressive defense.

But when the final horn sounded, Minnesota managed to grind out another less-than-perfect victory – a good sign for coach Dan Monson.

“This team has got some character, and I’m proud of the way they dug that game out,” Monson said. “Because we didn’t play well offensively and didn’t take care of the ball against the pressure.”

Burleson committed eight turnovers in the contest while leading the team with 10 assists.

“It was a long night for me passing the ball; I was trying to make too many things happen,” Burleson said. “I should be experienced enough to know that by now, but it’s something I’ll learn from and hopefully do better next game.”

Minnesota turned the ball over twice in the final minute, keeping the Yellow Jackets in the game.

In Saturday’s contest with Georgia, the Gophers committed an over-and-back in the final minute.

Monson said his team must curb the mental lapses late in the game before Minnesota winds up on the losing end of a close game.

“Those things can’t happen,” Monson said. “But we have to learn from those, and fortunately we’re learning while we’re winning, and that’s a positive.”

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and

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