Purdue too much for Minnesota to handle

The Minnesota men’s basketball team left West Lafayette, Ind., Wednesday night the same way it entered – still without a quality win on its résumé.

As has been the case all season for the Gophers on the road against ranked opponents, Minnesota was competitive, but not consistent enough to win, this time falling to No. 16 Purdue 65-53 at Mackey Arena.

“It was similar to every game we’ve lost,” coach Tubby Smith said. “We can’t seem to find consistency in our play.”

Moral victories have long been meaningless to the Gophers, but at least Minnesota made things competitive early when it looked like six turnovers on their first nine possessions, which created a 19-9 deficit, would lead to a blowout.

Instead, though, the Gophers (17-10 overall, 7-8 Big Ten) settled down and led by senior forward Dan Coleman – who scored eight of his 10 points in the first half and played arguably his most aggressive game of the season – Minnesota used a 9-0 run to take a 24-21 lead with a minute remaining in the first half.

But that lead was short lived, as was the Gophers’ competitiveness in the game.

After Purdue sophomore guard Keaton Grant hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer from just inside half court to give the Boilermakers a 29-26 half-time lead, Minnesota never recovered.

“We just can’t seem to deal with prosperity or adversity – that’s a real challenge for us,” Smith said.

The Gophers went scoreless for longer than 5 minutes to start the second half and Purdue (22-6, 13-2), which is now in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten standings, slowly built out its lead.

And at the same time Minnesota, which had 20 turnovers, fumbled away possessions, Purdue freshman guard E’Twaun Moore introduced himself to the Gophers. Moore, who finished with 22 points, paced the Boilermakers on an 18-7 run which put Purdue up 17 with 7:30 minutes remaining.

Minnesota would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way – leaving its only meeting of the season against Purdue still searching for a statement win.

“We had to have some patience and some poise and we didn’t; we panicked,” Smith said.

If the Gophers’ chances of receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament weren’t on life support before Wednesday night’s game, they certainly are now.

Minnesota must now win its final three games of the regular season to get to 20 wins – the number of wins likely needed to even garner consideration for a tournament berth by the NCAA committee.