Gaffes plague Gophers at home

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team shot a season-low 29.6 percent from the field.

Adam Fink

Prior to Saturday’s men’s basketball game against Minnesota at Williams Arena, Purdue coach Gene Keady wrote two messages to his team on its locker room board: have a fast start and play with a high energy level.

The Boilermakers responded while on the opposite side of the floor; the Gophers did neither. Minnesota fell behind 11-0 and struggled mightily on both ends of the court before losing to Purdue 65-47 in front of a crowd of 13,010.

“We’ve been playing better, making steps for improvement,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “We took a step back in that regard. This was a quality team that we were playing against.”

With the loss, the Gophers (10-15, 2-11 Big Ten) must win all their final three conference games and advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game to guarantee a .500 record – and a shot at a National Invitational Tournament postseason bid.

Minnesota, which had won two of its last three games including a 73-71 win at Indiana last Wednesday, never recovered from its slow start and found out firsthand how tough the Boilermakers’ defense is to crack.

Purdue (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten), statistically one of the best defensive teams in the conference, played its kind of basketball from the get-go.

The score was low. Every shot was contested. Each cut to the basket was difficult. And the tempo was to the Boilermakers’ liking.

The Gophers had season-lows in field goal percentage (29.6), field goals (16) and assists (seven).

“We came out too soft,” senior Michael Bauer said. “Defensively they are a great team. They came ready to play and we didn’t step up to the challenge. Guys didn’t prepare themselves mentally and that is unacceptable.”

Monson said when freshman forward Kris Humphries struggles, so do the rest of the Gophers.

Against Purdue, Humphries scored 14 points – eight below his average – and had a career-low three rebounds.

It wasn’t just Humphries’ off afternoon that hurt Minnesota. It was how Purdue stopped him – with essentially one opponent.

Humphries, who has found himself double- and triple-teamed all season, was guarded primarily by 6-foot-8-inch forward Brett Buscher.

“We didn’t have to double Kris too much,” Keady said. “I thought we did a good job keeping the ball out of his hands down low.”

That forced other players to step up. Ben Johnson added 16 points and was the only other Gophers player to score more than four.

“They play real physical,” Johnson said. “They take you out of your sets. We knew that coming into the game. We missed a lot of shots we normally make.”

In terms of energy and effort, the Gophers were dominated early.

Minnesota didn’t have the same scrappiness it has had in recent games. And when the game turned sour early, there was no comeback.

The Gophers trailed 32-26 early in the second half after holding the Boilermakers scoreless for nearly 10 minutes.

That was as close as Minnesota would get. Purdue went on an 11-4 run and led by 13 points with 10:36 remaining, and put the Gophers in another huge hole.

Purdue’s Melvin Buckley scored 15 points while David Teague added 13.

After starting the conference with a 0-9 record, Minnesota had made drastic improvements and was looking to its final four games as a springboard into the Big Ten Tournament.

After Saturday’s disheartening loss, the Gophers are just hoping there is enough time left to salvage some of the season.

“It’s too darn late in the season to not take this personally,” Bauer said. “Frustrations have been building all season. We need to take those frustrations and channel them. We need to play better.”