Gophers swept by Northwestern after poor second half performance

The Gophers shot 31 percent in the second to seal the defeat.

by Jack Warrick

Minnesota had the chance to get revenge on Northwestern with home-court advantage after a 23-point loss earlier this season.

The Gophers (14-9, 3-7 Big Ten) couldn’t use that advantage and fell 77-69 to the Wildcats (13-9, 4-5 Big Ten) in their second meeting at Williams Arena on Tuesday.

“I thought we wore down.” head coach Richard Pitino said. “I thought that we really really scrapped and fought but just give them credit. They made shots when they needed to and we couldn’t”

Though they led at halftime 40-34, the Gophers couldn’t continue their hot shooting in the second half, while Northwestern’s shooters came back to outscore Minnesota 43-29 in the second to seal a sweep of the Gophers.

Nate Mason led the Gophers with 25 points and nine assists. He was the only Minnesota player to play every minute of the game. Amir Coffey was second in scoring with 15 points in his second game back after a shoulder injury. 

“We didn’t really take them out of their stuff,” guard Dupree McBrayer said. “You know, that was the game plan to try to speed them up so we didn’t really take them out their stuff. And they were just able to pass, pass and just [shoot] open shots.”

At one point in the first half, the Gophers led by 10 points, using their 53 percent first half shooting to make it look like the Gophers would get redemption for the last Northwestern game.

In the second half, the Gophers couldn’t continue what they had been doing, and they blew their lead about halfway through the second. Northwestern held the lead through the final 7:37 and the Wildcats made 5-6 free throws in the last minute to win.

“I thought we wore down,” Pitino said. “And I thought that we had a couple looks that could’ve fallen down and they didn’t, and it allowed them to get out on the break.”

McBrayer, who has been dealing with a leg injury most of the season, jumped into a crowd of defenders, fell down and re-injured his leg at the end of the first half. He still managed to play the second half though he was limping and visibly in pain.

“Growing up with my mom, she always told me to be tough,” McBrayer said.  “So even though I’m hurting I still try to go out there and help any way I can.”

Northwestern dealt the Gophers their second worst loss of the season on Jan. 10 when they blew them out 83-60 in Evanston, Ill. It marked the first game Gophers’ center Jordan Murphy didn’t record a double double this season, so he was only able to tie the NCAA record for most double-doubles in a row.

Murphy didn’t get a double double in Tuesday nights game either, with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Gophers will finish up their January schedule when they play at Iowa on Jan. 30, after a six day break.