Gophers get No. 9 seed in Big Ten tournament after loss to Purdue

Minnesota will face Illinois, the No. 8 seed, in the first round Thursday.

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins drives the ball to the basket against Penn State on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Image by Amanda Snyder

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins drives the ball to the basket against Penn State on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Andrew Krammer

Andre Hollins tried to buoy the Gophers’ offense Saturday, but the anchor of inconsistency on both ends of the court was too damning.

Minnesota lost its eighth straight road game, this time to Purdue, 89-73 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.

The Gophers, once ranked eighth in the nation, finished tied for seventh in the Big Ten with an 8-10 conference record. They have the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten tournament and will play No. 8 seed Illinois on Thursday in Chicago.

Minnesota finished with a losing Big Ten record for the third straight season.

The Gophers played victim in the second-straight Senior Day after demolishing Penn State by 29 points on their own Senior Day on March 2.

Minnesota has not led at any point in its last two games.

Hollins finished with 24 points — his most since the Gophers’ Jan. 12 loss to Indiana — and a career-high nine assists.

Tubby Smith switched back to his original lineup including Hollins and Joe Coleman after starting reserve seniors Julian Welch and Andre Ingram for two games.

It didn’t stop the Gophers from digging themselves a 30-9 hole to start the game.

Purdue shot 12-for-21 from the field to begin the game. Minnesota’s 3-for-18 shooting struggle in that stretch didn’t help its cause.

The Gophers, usually stout defensively, gave up uncontested layups and dunks as Purdue shot 54 percent in the game.

Minnesota gave up 89 points, tying its season-high for points allowed, which it set in a loss to Duke on Nov. 22.

Trevor Mbakwe struggled all afternoon against seven-footer A.J. Hammons, who finished 6-for-6 from the floor with three blocked shots.

Mbakwe sat out most of the first half because of two early fouls, but he was ineffective on offense anyway, making just one shot on six attempts when he headed to the bench.

Gophers reserve big men Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker failed to produce in Mbakwe’s absence, as the Boilermakers outscored the Gophers 42-28 in the paint.

Smith, burdened by a 17-point deficit at halftime, started reserve guard Maverick Ahanmisi in place of Coleman in the second half.

Ahanmisi manned the point, allowing Hollins — a shooting guard in high school — to move back to his natural position.

It worked briefly, and then Minnesota’s offense and defense fell apart.

Hollins opened up the second half with three straight three-pointers as the Gophers pulled within seven.

That’s as close as it got. Minnesota went on a three-minute scoring drought as Purdue took a 15-point lead with 11 minutes left.

Hollins continued to hit shots, aided by Rodney Williams and Coleman, who were both held scoreless against Nebraska on Wednesday.

Williams finished with 13 points, the most for him since Minnesota’s Jan. 29 win against Nebraska.

But the Gophers failed to make the necessary stops, allowing Purdue to shoot 47 percent from three-point range.

Boilermakers senior D.J. Byrd finished 4-for-8 from deep, taking advantage of the Big Ten’s worst perimeter defense.