It was going so well for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team Tuesday night that coach Dan Monson felt comfortable exchanging a chest bump with junior Vincent Grier with just more than eight minutes gone in the second half against Florida State.
And why not – the Gophers had just opened the half with an 18-9 run to extend their lead to 59-47, and Williams Arena was rocking.
But what Monson didn’t know was that his team would only score 10 points the rest of the game.
The Seminoles closed out the game with a 21-6 run after trailing 63-49, stealing the Big Ten/ACC Challenge game from the Gophers 70-69 in front of an announced crowd of 9,081.
By the time it was all over, Monson could only play the youth card.
“It’s very evident that we’re still a young basketball team, and we played very tentatively,” Monson said. “But I still think we did a lot of good things, and we have to make our young players understand that.”
The Gophers (2-3) led by as many as 12 points in the first half, and the 63-49 margin with just more than seven minutes left was their largest of the game.
In fact, the only lead Florida State held before taking a 65-63 lead on Todd Galloway’s three-pointer with just more than two minutes left came at 2-0 after the game’s opening possession.
After that first Seminoles lead, the Gophers dominated most of the first half, with Grier scoring 13 of his game-high 23 points in just more than eight minutes.
But the end of the first half foreshadowed the end of the second – the Gophers played what Monson called “tentative basketball,” allowing the Seminoles to cut the deficit to 41-38 at the break.
“Basketball is a game of runs; they have good players, and you can’t expect to shut them out,” said Rico Tucker, a freshman guard who scored 10 points. “I think we’ll learn from tonight that we have to keep playing no matter what the score is.”
But after the relative collapse to close the first half, Grier re-emerged for the Gophers early in the second, scoring seven points in less than two minutes as the Gophers went on their opening run.
And then came the chest bump.
And then the collapse.
“We just looked like a bunch of deer in the headlights on offense,” said senior center Jeff Hagen, who scored a season-low six points on the night. “A lot of guys were looking at the clock, hoping that time would disappear rather than going out there and beating them for the last eight minutes.”
For a team that spoke openly about forging an identity for the rest of the season against Florida State, the tough one-point loss wasn’t the way most envisioned it turning out.
And as for Monson, the chest bump turned out to be premature.
“If we would have won today, we’d have the same practice tomorrow,” Monson said. “This was a hard loss for the team to take. We knew we’d have difficult losses like this, and we’ve got to get through them.”