Near-upset of Tide highlights tournament

Minnesota finished fifth in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, going 1-2.

Bob Wothe

Though Minnesota’s men’s basketball team lost more games than it won over the holiday weekend at the Great Alaska Shootout, the Gophers showed they might be better than previously advertised.

Finishing fifth out of eight teams at the tournament, the Gophers impressed many.

“We feel very fortunate to win,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said after his No. 19 Crimson Tide (5-0) defeated the Gophers 78-72 Friday. “From watching film from a year ago and then watching their film this year, they’re much improved.”

Gottfried’s view was pretty much the consensus of the new-look Minnesota squad, which beat Furman 84-69 Thursday in its opening game but lost to Alabama in the semifinals and then to Oklahoma 67-54 in the third-place game Saturday.

The Gophers said they came out with good energy against the Sooners on Saturday, appearing to build off their strong performance against the Tide on Friday.

But despite holding an early lead over Oklahoma, Minnesota hit a rough patch late in the first half.

The Sooners (3-1) showed signs of taking over the game and took a five-point lead into the locker room at 31-26. The Gophers’ deficit surged to 63-39 in the second half as the squad struggled to get anything going offensively, scoring just nine points in the half’s first 10 minutes.

“We weren’t very happy with how we played, especially during that stretch early in the

second half,” Gophers assistant coach Bill Walker said. “They hit that stretch, and they scored a fair amount. But we just weren’t scoring at all.”

Minnesota shot just 38 percent from the floor and 17 percent from three-point range. The Gophers were outrebounded by a 35-27 margin and also committed 19 turnovers.

The Oklahoma game notwithstanding, the tournament as

a whole was positive for the

Gophers, who showed they can hang around with a top-25 team.

And maybe, with time, steal a game or two from top teams.

“If we fix some things, we can beat some people, not just hang with them,” senior guard Aaron Robinson said after the Alabama loss. “We can play with anybody in the country.”

And, like Robinson said, it’s actually beating people that the Gophers will be counted on to do.

“We make no excuses for this game,” Walker said after the loss to the Sooners. “When you’re not shooting well, you’ve got to find other ways to win – we’ve got to figure that out.”