Hagen, U big men key 87-80 win over Michigan

Anthony Maggio

Jeff Hagen, and one. Jeff Hagen, and one. Jeff Hagen, and one.

Three times in a 1:33 stretch during the second half of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team’s 87-80 win over Michigan, Hagen received the ball in the low post, displayed a move or two from what he called after the game his “decent-size repertoire,” and delivered a three-point play the old-fashioned way.

Each time, it gave the Gophers their biggest lead of the contest. And more importantly, Hagen’s nine points capped a 15-to-4 Minnesota run to break open what had been a 50-50 tie.

“Jeff Hagen was huge,” coach Dan Monson said. “I thought his minutes were as valuable as any of our guys today.”

Hagen’s play on the block was a boost for Minnesota, but the inside presence of all the Gophers big men was the difference in Saturday’s contest.

In its loss to the Wolverines at Ann Arbor on Jan. 22, Minnesota did not attack Michigan down low. But the Gophers (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten) made a concerted effort to get the ball inside this time around.

“Their weak spot is their ability to guard the post and we took advantage of it,” forward Michael Bauer said.

From the beginning, Minnesota – now on its longest win streak (three games) since starting the season 4-0 – executed its game plan. Jerry Holman, who led the team with 18 points, scored the Gophers first five points – two of which came on an authoritative left-handed dunk to spark the crowd.

But the 13,965 in Williams Arena made the most noise when Hagen gave Minnesota a 65-54 lead on his layup and foul shot with 11:58 remaining.

Still, the Gophers could not put the game out of reach. They built momentum, but deflated when play stopped at the 10:36 mark.

Aaron Robinson stepped in front of Michigan’s Bernard Robinson Jr. to draw a charge and the whistle blew. Lead official Phil Bova called a blocking foul. Second official Steve Skiles called a charge.

The officials spent several minutes talking over the call and then looked at the replay.

“I tried to help them, I told them I thought it was a charge,” Monson joked.

Eventually, a double-foul was called, but the energy was gone.

The scenario was indicative of Saturday’s game, as the officiating seemed questionable at best all afternoon.

The Wolverines (13-8, 6-2) promptly cut the Gophers lead to three with seven minutes left to play. A 10-to-3 run put Michigan within two points with 1:05 left to play.

But the Gophers – now tied for 5th in the Big Ten with Indiana – finally put the clamps down, allowing one bucket the rest of the way.

Kevin Burleson hit 4-of-4 free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the victory for Minnesota.

Daniel Horton led the Wolverines with 20 points, but shot only 8-of-21 from the floor.

The Gophers defense, after surrendering 28 points to LaVell Blanchard in their first meeting, held him in check with just nine points for the game.

Holman, who stayed out of foul trouble, guarded Blanchard most of the afternoon.

“My focus was that he wasn’t going to do what he did at his house to us tonight,” Holman said.

And with Williams Arena celebrating its 75th anniversary Saturday, Holman added: “You can’t come into the Barn without wiping your feet off.”

Five players finished in double figures for Minnesota. Rick Rickert was one shy of Holman with 17 points, Moe Hargrow added 14, while Hagen and Burleson chipped in 12 apiece.

For Hagen, the 12 points tied a career high, as he scored in double figures for the second time this season and helped the Gophers give Michigan its first losing streak in conference play.

“I just wanted to give a spark to the team and take what comes to me,” Hagen said.

Minnesota travels to Ohio State on Wednesday for a shot at its first road win streak of the season.

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]