Barn is no shelter as U loses again

Tim Klobuchar

Aside from the comparison that both involve sinkings of once-powerful entities, there is one other similarity between the Gophers men’s basketball team and the movie “Titanic.” Although occasional, entertaining subplots develop that might take a little attention away from the event, you can’t help thinking while watching, “I know how this is going to end.”
The pattern held true Wednesday night. The Gophers, despite an injury to a key player, stayed in the game thanks to solid supporting performances, but faded towards the final credits, losing 74-60 to Michigan State to fall to 0-4 in the Big Ten.
“Once again, the game was just too long for us,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “If we played 32 minutes maybe we would be all right. That’s what happens when you don’t have size or strength. Fatigue is one of the factors you have to take into account because you are not going to make those kinds of mistakes when you’re fresh.”
Two players, Eric Harris and Quincy Lewis, played 37 of the 40 minutes, with mixed results. After scoring 19 and a career-high 20 points in his last two games, Harris struggled with his shooting. He was just 1-for-10 from the field for seven points. Harris said he thought a lot of the Gophers’ mistakes could’ve been avoided, even if they were tired.
Minnesota narrowed what had been an 11-point deficit to five with 1:20 left. The Gophers promptly turned the ball over, and Spartans guard Mateen Cleaves hit two free throws to put the game away.
“We made a lot of dumb plays,” he said. “We gave up layups, we fouled, and we gave up three-point plays.”
The numbers back up Harris. The Spartans, with more easy shots, hit 59 percent from the field in the second half. The Gophers hit just 33 percent, including 0-for-10 from three-point range.
Lewis, meanwhile, played well with a soft cast on his sprained left thumb, which kept him out of most of the second half of Minnesota’s loss to Penn State on Saturday. The junior forward led the Gophers with 17 points.
“I thought I shot the ball pretty well,” Lewis said. “I’m a shooter. (The cast) didn’t really matter. I’d have to have my hand cut off not to shoot.”
As good as Lewis looked with his cast, the sight of Sam Jacobson in a shirt and tie was equally discouraging for the Gophers. Minnesota’s leading scorer missed his third straight game and is out indefinitely with a sprained back.
“He could be back for Sunday (against Iowa) or he could be out for the rest of the season,” Haskins said.
Normally, coaches don’t like to speculate on the what-ifs, but Michigan State’s Tom Izzo wasn’t afraid.
“It means a lot to them that he’s out,” Izzo said. “He is a great player. I understand what Clem is going through, because we are just getting back one of our top players, David Thomas. It’s not worrying about getting him back, it’s getting him into the form he was before. Jacobson is a premiere scorer.
“We would have had definite problems on this night, and we would not have beaten them with Jacobson.”
As has become custom, Minnesota got solid games from emerging players, just not enough to win. Junior guard Kevin Clark scored 13 points and ran down eight rebounds, while center Kyle Sanden posted his second strong scoring game with 15 points.
“I’m just starting to get back into condition,” said Sanden, who has had various medical problems ranging from concussions to fainting. “I didn’t play for almost two years, and I’m just now getting back into playing shape.”
Unfortunately for the Gophers, the same can’t be said for them. Injuries and inexperience have already wreaked havoc on their season, and even a full recovery from this disastrous start isn’t likely to get them into the NCAA tournament.
There is however, one get-out-of-jail-free option Minnesota can look forward to — the Big Ten tournament.
“Even if we lose all our Big Ten games, we could still have a chance to win all our games in the Big Ten tournament and make the NCAA tournament,” Harris said.
While it may soothe the Gophers to think of that saving grace, it’s indicative of their season that some players are thinking of it only a quarter of the way through the conference schedule.

WEDNESDAY’S SUMMARY

Mich. St. 24 50 — 74
Gophers 26 34 — 60

Michigan St. (10-4, 3-1)
Smith 3-9 2-3 8, Klein 3-10 6-8 14, Hutson 3-3 2-3 8, Cleaves 7-14 4-7 19, Bell 2-6 4-5 8, Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Peterson 4-6 1-3 11, Granger 1-2 0-0 2, Wiley 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-56 19-29 74.
Gophers (7-8, 0-4)
Lewis 6-13 3-5 17, Tarver 3-7 0-0 6, Sanden 7-13 1-2 15, Clark 4-12 4-4 13, Harris 1-10 5-5 7, Archambault 0-3 0-0 0, Nathaniel 0-2 0-0 0, Schoenrock 0-0 0-0 0, Stanford, Ja. 1-3 0-0 2, Broxsie 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 13-16 60.
3-Point goals — Michigan St. 5-15 (Klein 2-6, Cleaves 1-1, Bell 0-3, Thomas 0-1, Davis 0-1, Peterson 2-3), Minnesota 3-17 (Lewis 2-6, Clark 1-5, Harris 0-4, Archambault 0-2). Fouled out — Minnesota, Lewis, Tarver. Rebounds — Michigan St. 41 (Smith 11), Minnesota 42 (Tarver 10). Assists — Michigan St. 11 (Cleaves 7), Minnesota 15 (Lewis 5). Total fouls — Michigan St. 17, Minnesota 21. A-14,187.