Gophers can’t shake the habit, lose again 80-66

Minnesota could only watch as Wisconsin’s Devin Harris scored a career-high 38 points.

by Adam Fink

As Devin Harris walked toward the Wisconsin bench with 1:37 remaining Wednesday night, the Badgers faithful rose to their feet in appreciation of his 38-point effort.

Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson, on the other hand, did some subbing of his own: to the end of his bench.

The Gophers made a valiant effort, even claiming a three-point lead early in the second half. But the Badgers offense – and most notably Harris, who had a career-high 38 points – came alive while the defense clamped down in the final 10 minutes as No. 14 Wisconsin beat the Gophers 80-66 in Madison, Wis.

Minnesota (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) has lost 13 straight conference games dating to last season and is one loss from tying the 1932-33 squad for worst Big Ten start.

The Gophers’ will couldn’t be faulted Wednesday, especially after a loss to Northwestern on Saturday after which some players criticized the effort level.

“I thought we had energy and competed a lot better,” said Monson, who added he felt the team would have beaten the Wildcats with Wednesday’s intensity. “We are 0 and whatever, but we’ve been in every game. It just doesn’t make it any easier.”

As a team, the Gophers dove for loose balls (eight steals), played aggressively (five blocks) and kept their composure (Minnesota shot 56.3 percent) despite the hostile crowd of 17,142 at the Kohl Center.

Freshman Kris Humphries, who scored a team-high 24 points and added eight rebounds, agreed with Monson.

“All of us were playing as a unit,” said Humphries, who slammed home a dunk with 7:07 remaining to cut the deficit to four.

That was as close as Minnesota would get the remainder of the way.

Harris squashed any hope of a Minnesota comeback. The junior scored 24 points in the second half and shot 10-for-12 for the game, hitting as many free throws (13) as the Gophers attempted.

In addition, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan noted the Badgers (15-3, 6-1) scored on all but two of their possessions in the final 10 minutes.

The defining moment of the game could have come when Humphries was called for a technical foul with 2:06 remaining in the first half.

It was his third foul, sending the forward and his 12 points to the bench with the Gophers trailing by 14.

“I didn’t say anything,” Humphries said.

Minnesota could have collapsed without its go-to guy on offense. But in a span of almost seven minutes covering both halves, the Gophers held Wisconsin without a field goal and turned a 14-point deficit into a 39-36 lead with a 20-3 run.

“Our zone had them frustrated,” said Johnson, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.

Minnesota plays Illinois on Sunday at Williams Arena.