New lineup, slow pace dooms Gophers in Nebraska

Minnesota fell to 1-7 in Big Ten road games as it lost to an inferior team.

Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe dunks the ball against Penn State on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Image by Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe dunks the ball against Penn State on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Andrew Krammer

The Gophers played their red-and-white uniformed foe like it was Wisconsin, scoring 51 points Wednesday in an upset loss at Nebraska after averaging 75 in their past two wins.

The Huskers dictated the tempo, slowing the game down into an uncomfortable style for Minnesota — the half-court offense.

Nebraska beat Minnesota 53-51 in a game the Gophers never led, dropping coach Tubby Smith’s squad to 1-7 on the road in the Big Ten.

Smith stuck with his senior-laden lineup against Nebraska because it produced 73 points and a win against Penn State at home  Saturday.

It didn’t work in Lincoln, Neb.

Senior reserves Andre Ingram and Julian Welch made their second consecutive starts.

Regular sophomore starters Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins came off the bench and could not get into a rhythm.

Coleman, junior Austin Hollins and senior Rodney Williams combined for zero points on 0-for-9 shooting.

Coleman, known for his scoring ability, did not take a shot attempt in 17 minutes.

The Gophers were expected to bully a Cornhuskers squad that averages a Big Ten-low 59 points per game.

But senior Trevor Mbakwe was the only Minnesota player to show up offensively.

The sixth-year senior had 15 points and six rebounds, often pulling his team within two points, but he received no help.

Sophomore Elliott Eliason scored seven points off the bench in the first half, but he was a non-factor in the final 20 minutes.

Even when the Gophers played loose and attacked the basket, they couldn’t hit a free throw.

Minnesota shot 10-for-20 from the charity stripe and even worse from beyond the arc — 23 percent.

Williams scored a Big Ten career-high 23 points when Minnesota beat Nebraska on Jan. 29 at Williams Arena.

But the Gophers play like a much different team on the road.

Except for Mbakwe, Minnesota’s typical starters failed to produce in any capacity on offense.

Andre Hollins, Williams and Austin Hollins combined to shoot 0-for-10 in the first half as the Gophers put up 21 points.

Austin Hollins’ shooting slump extended to four games Wednesday night. The junior is 5-for-28 since Minnesota’s loss against Iowa on Feb. 17.

Minnesota heads to Purdue for its regular season finale Saturday.