Turnovers abound in another Gophers loss

Minnesota turned the ball over a season-high 28 times in its loss to Purdue on Wednesday.

Zach Eisendrath

It’s been a forgettable month of February for the Minnesota men’s basketball team.

In their final regular season game, the Gophers extended their season-long losing streak to eight games after falling to Purdue 66-47 on Wednesday night at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind.

After closing the month of January with a pair of wins, Minnesota finished February 0-8 and now has 21 losses – the most in school history.

But the Gophers (9-21 overall, 3-13 Big Ten) brought their latest loss on themselves. Minnesota was unable to control the ball from the onset, turning the ball over a season-high 28 times on the night and had 15 turnovers within the first 15 minutes of the game.

That didn’t allow the Gophers to stay in the game for long.

Interim coach Jim Molinari’s team averaged just 14.3 turnovers per game entering West Lafayette – a relatively low number for a team with the record the Minnesota has – but with six turnovers just five minutes into the game, Minnesota was already in a 13-2 hole.

As the turnovers continued to mount, the Boilermakers scored easy points in transition, which helped them to score 21 points off Minnesota turnovers.

“We’re just a really bad ball-handling team, and they took advantage of that,” Molinari said during a post-game radio interview.

Molinari said his teams’ problems taking care of the ball stem from not having a true point guard.

With the departure of junior guard Limar Wilson last week, the Gophers have been left with junior guard Lawrence McKenzie and redshirt freshman guard Kevin Payton to run the point – both of whom are natural off-guards.

“No matter who we put in there, we couldn’t handle the pressure,” Molinari said.

And even once Minnesota’s turnover problems started to settle down a bit, it was too late. Purdue senior forward Carl Landry had already taken over.

Landry had 25 points and 12 rebounds and helped the Boilermakers (19-10, 8-7) lead by as many as 23 points in the second half.

“I think they do a great job at moving the ball until Landry gets a touch,” Molinari said. “I just

think Landry is as good as anybody in our league and has had a great year.”

The one bright spot in the Gophers’ final game before the Big Ten Tournament was the return of junior center Spencer Tollackson as an offensive threat. After going a combined 4-of-14 from the floor his last two games, Tollackson finally found his offensive game against the Boilermakers.

Coming off the bench, Tollackson went 8-of-12 from the field and finished with a team-high 16 points in 32 minutes of work.

But as solid as Minnesota was inside, it couldn’t get it done from the perimeter.

After going 8-of-10 from beyond the arc in their 65-59 win over Purdue on Jan. 3 at Williams Arena, the Gophers went just 2-of-9 from three-point range Wednesday night.

And without its coveted three-point shot dropping, Minnesota couldn’t keep pace with a Boilermakers team frantic for wins to keep its NCAA tournament chances alive.

Molinari said the Gophers simply weren’t a good matchup for a Purdue team that is now 15-1 at home, with its lone loss coming to No. 1 Ohio State.

“I think we fought hard,” Molinari said. “But if we played Purdue ten times here, we’d have a hard time. The way they play, they can really expose us and what we do.”