Wolverines can’t solve Barn jinx

Allison Younge

Following the Gophers’ 88-78 win over Michigan Saturday, Wolverines senior Maceo Baston was willing to give his justification behind the tripping attempts, elbows and trash-talking that were prevalent throughout the game.
“You think of last year when they cut down the nets in our gym,” Baston said. “Now that’s personal.”
The 6-9 power forward was referring to Feb. 26 of last year when Minnesota defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor to capture the 1997 Big Ten title. Not only did Minnesota depart with the title in hand, the Gophers hotfooted back to Minneapolis with Michigan’s nets. While the custom is not uncommon in basketball, it was enough to leave the Wolverines hungry for revenge.
But Saturday turned out to be no consolation for Michigan. Despite Baston’s 27 points, the Wolverines bumped, pushed, tripped and talked their way to their fourth straight loss in Williams Arena in as many years. While the Gophers’ desire to win was not as apparent physically, Minnesota showed no signs of intimidation.
Within the first four minutes of play, Gophers 6-11 freshman Kyle Sanden had been pushed down, dunked over and had a shot blocked, but didn’t shut down. He even managed to connect for one of the Gophers’ 14 three-pointers, only his second this season. The Gophers’ rookie remained collected battling Michigan’s veteran post men until, with under five minutes to go, a tangle with Baston caused Sanden to lose his cool. After being called for a foul in the pile-up, Sanden got in an extra shot and was hit with a technical foul.
While the Williams Arena fans reveled in the drama of the game, Gophers coach Clem Haskins credited co-captains Sam Jacobson and Eric Harris for keeping their emotions under wraps.
“The cooler heads prevailed,” Haskins said. “They helped settle us down. They kept their cool, and we kept the lead — the credit goes to them.”
Cool heads teamed with hot hands for Jacobson and Harris, who combined for 43 of the Gophers 88 points, including seven three-pointers. While Jacobson disregarded any bad blood between the two teams, he said the excitement during the game led to heightened intensity.
“Anytime you get an intense game like this, players’ emotions tend to take over,” he said. “There are times when players push each other or whatever, but I think both teams respect each other.”
Following the loss Baston left out the r-word when describing the two teams’ rapport, but went on to comment on how the game’s outcome should have been reversed.
“We should have won this game tonight,” Baston said. “We didn’t get the defense that we needed, they made some threes, and we didn’t make our free throws at the end.”
Even though last year’s net-swiping incident still weighs heavy on Baston’s mind, teammate Travis Conlan offered extra background as to why Saturday’s game led to added aggression.
“You always want to beat the big rivals in your conference,” he said. “Minnesota is one of those for us because they beat us last year for the Big Ten title. You want to have bragging rights, you want to be able to say you won that game.”
For four years standing, no matter their record or rank, Baston and the Wolverines have departed Williams Arena with a loss, the nets still hung.