Gophers lose heartbreaker, await NIT fate

Minnesota blew a late nine-point lead to No. 2 seed Michigan and lost in overtime.

Gophers Rodney William slams in two points during a game against Nebraska Saturday at William Arena.

Gophers’ Rodney William slams in two points during a game against Nebraska Saturday at William Arena.

by Charlie Armitz

The Gophers fell to Michigan 73-69 in overtime Friday in the second round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, Ind.

The Wolverines’ Evan Smotrycz made a game-tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in regulation, and freshman Trey Burke blocked Andre Hollins’ potential game-winning jumper.

Burke had 30 points and played all 45 minutes to lead Michigan. The freshman hit two free throws in the final minute of overtime to give the Wolverines a four-point lead.

Michigan trailed 54-45 with 4:37 left in the second half. But the Wolverines responded with a 17-3 run to force overtime and take a 64-57 lead, making five 3-pointers in the process.

Minnesota’s defense, which held Michigan to 20 points in the first half, seemed to soften late in the game. Offensively, the Gophers struggled to break the Wolverines’ zone and failed to make shots in crunch time.

“You have to make those plays in the games and you have to make the stops,” Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said. “That’s sort of what we had issues with all year long.”

Minnesota played from behind during overtime and lacked the poise displayed by Michigan, which earned a share of the Big Ten’s regular season title with a 13-5 record.

Hollins led the Gophers with 21 points and six assists in 44 minutes. But the freshman point guard made just six of 18 field goals, missing two shots near the end of regulation.

“We didn’t execute at the end,” Hollins said. “It’s just the little things that count. We let them get some second-chance shots and … we kind of let the game slip out of our hands.”

In Thursday’s first-round game against Northwestern, Minnesota had rallied from a late four-point deficit to force overtime, where it outscored the Wildcats 14-7.

Rodney Williams had 20 points Friday on 8-for-10 shooting, but the junior missed two key free throws in overtime.

“I was definitely upset with myself about the free throws,” said Williams, who shot 55 percent from the line this season.

With the Gophers’ NCAA tournament hopes likely gone, the team’s fate now rests in the hands of the National Invitation Tournament selection committee. The NIT field of 32 teams will be announced Sunday.