Big Ten losing streak continues for men’s hoops team, now 0-9

The winless Big Ten start ties Minnesota’s 1933 squad for worst ever in school history.

Adam Fink

During his postgame press conference Sunday afternoon, Illinois coach Bruce Weber said he noticed Minnesota’s men’s basketball team reaches a point in the second half where it loses confidence – and, ultimately, the game.

The Gophers, who have led or been tied with less than 10 minutes remaining in six of their first eight Big Ten games, reached that barrier again against the Illini, this time with 13 minutes remaining.

Minnesota went a nine-minute stretch in the second half without a field goal, during which it committed six turnovers and gave up a game-deciding 13-1 run.

The Illini coasted to a 79-69 win at Williams Arena, in a game in which the Gophers were up by as many as 15 points and led with 15:27 left on the clock.

“They went on a stretch, just likes teams have been doing all year, and we didn’t answer,” Minnesota senior Michael Bauer said. “It has been a trend of things that drop down. The intensity drops. The hustle out there on the defensive and offensive end (drops). Our plays aren’t run as crisply.”

Minnesota (8-12, 0-9 Big Ten) tied the 1933 squad for the program’s worst conference start and can set the record against Michigan on Wednesday.

The Gophers sit in last place in the Big Ten, three games out of 10th place.

“When we got behind, we didn’t have the confidence that we need (to make a run),” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “We put a lot on our defense. We became a half-court team. A lot of that was due to our defense.”

The Gophers defense struggled in the second half, because of Illinois’ quickness – especially guards Dee Brown and Deron Williams.

The duo had Minnesota’s defenders on its heels, prompting Monson to say Illinois’ quickness was better than the Gophers.

“We played very good defense in the second half and they started doubting themselves like they have all year,” Weber said.

Brown, the media’s choice for preseason Big Ten player of the year, scored 18 points on a combination of three-pointers and quick moves to the basket.

Williams added 11 of his 19 points in the second stanza and contributed 11 assists.

“Most games are lost on the defensive end,” said Minnesota’s Kris Humphries, who had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. “They just played harder than us in a stretch. They were able to finish the game.”

Stan Gaines, who scored all of his 12 points in the opening half, said the defensive breakdowns might be in part to mental lapses.

Despite the early success, Monson still felt the defense was a liability.

“I was never really happy how we guarded them even though we masked that with shots going in,” the Gophers’ fifth-year coach said.

Minnesota jumped to a 22-7 lead in front of 13,404 fans at Williams Arena only five minutes into the game, after making its first seven shots, including five three-pointers.

The lead was short-lived as Illinois (15-5, 6-3) went on a 21-6 run to tie the game at 32-32.

Both teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half and Minnesota went into the break up 44-43, its 15-point lead a distant memory.

“You can’t lose any harder way than having all of the talent in the world – all the potential – and ending up with nine loses in your first nine games of the Big Ten conference,” Bauer said.