Shooting woes lead to fifth straight loss

Juniors Lawrence McKenzie and Dan Coleman had 13 points apiece.

by Zach Eisendrath

It’s a case of bad getting worse for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

The slumping Gophers lost their fifth straight game Wednesday night as they were unable to keep pace with red-hot Michigan State, losing 70-46 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.

Without any offense to complement junior guard Lawrence McKenzie and junior forward Dan Coleman, Minnesota dug deep holes for itself throughout its skid.

Even offensively-challenged Northwestern outscored this group of Gophers on Saturday, and as expected, the Spartans continued their hot streak, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor.

Minnesota (7-13 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) has now lost all five of its road games this season.

Without the presence of junior center Spencer Tollackson, the only viable options for the Gophers have been Coleman and McKenzie, and they were the only thing keeping them in the game for part of the first half.

The duo, each of whom scored 13 points, scored 14 of Minnesota’s first 17, giving the team brief leads throughout the first five minutes and keeping the Gophers in the game.

But when Michigan State (17-4, 4-2) started keying in on stopping McKenzie and Coleman, Minnesota went cold – ice cold.

While the Gophers were unable to score a field goal in the final eight minutes of the half, Michigan State went on a 16-3 run to take a 40-20 lead into the locker room.

“I want to give them a lot of credit, but that might have been our worst half of defense since I’ve been here,” Molinari said.

For a team with the offensive woes Minnesota has had of late, a 20-point disadvantage must seem almost insurmountable. It got even worse as the Gophers couldn’t make a field goal for the first four minutes of the second half, allowing the Spartans to build their lead up to 30 points.

While Tom Izzo’s Spartans did nearly everything right, Minnesota didn’t exactly make life easy for itself. The Gophers had more turnovers (15) than field goals (14).

That, coupled with only seven bench points and getting outscored a whopping 32-4 in the paint, didn’t help the Gophers’ chances of coming away with a victory against one of the top programs in the country.

After the game, Izzo expressed sympathy for the current state of Minnesota basketball.

“I feel for what he is going through,” Izzo said of Molinari’s situation. “I respect that the team kept playing hard and when we got them down a lot, they didn’t quit. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those players and that coach, but I want to publicly say I’ve got a lot of respect for Jim.”

As for Molinari, he was once again realistic about where his team is and where it’s headed as the season progresses.

“I feel like President Bush trying to explain Iraq,” Molinari said. “I think the reality of it is, I try to keep them going. I try to get little victories.

“These young people need to work hard and they need to get some rewards, but they might not get them this year. But they will get them; I really do think they will down the line.”