Maurice Hargrow went to the locker room of Saturday’s game against Northwestern with his ego bruised.
After building a 13-point first half advantage, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team fell asleep, allowing the Wildcats to execute a 14-6 run and steal the momentum going into halftime.
The 13,311 at Williams Arena were expecting the Gophers (10-6, 2-3 Big Ten) and their second-ranked scoring offense in the conference to pour it on lowly Northwestern (8-8, 0-5).
Instead, the Minnesota faithful poured boos on the players.
“It hurt my feelings when we got booed at the end of the first half,” guard Maurice Hargrow said. “I took that personally. We had to come out and do our job in the second half.”
Hargrow and company responded with enthusiasm, turning boos to cheers early in the second stanza as Minnesota rolled to a 74-57 victory.
The Gophers went on a 22-7 run to open the half, with Michael Bauer scoring eight of his 10 points during the seven-minute stretch.
But the key to the victory was what Dan Monson harped on since the end of the Michigan game – tempo.
“One of the things we tried to emphasize was that we needed to dictate the game,” Monson said.
Gophers’ defensive efforts set the pace.
Led up top by Jerry Holman, the Gophers full-court press led to steals, and the steals led to points. Even when Northwestern broke the pressure, the pace was quickened and the Wildcats had difficulty in their offense.
“Jerry really set the tone not only with his rebounding but at the point of the press,” Monson said. “He was that person out front who gave us the energy to get us going.”
Holman, whose confidence has suffered through the Big Ten season as his minutes have dwindled due to foul trouble, finished the contest with 10 points and a career-high 11 boards.
“I needed to have a breakout game,” Holman said. “It’s a
confidence boost not only for me but for the team.”
Hargrow headed the offensive for Minnesota, dropping 19 points on the Wildcats for his third highest output of the season.
Kevin Burleson also had a big night offensively, as his early three-point shooting sparked the Gophers.
Burleson hit his first three trifectas in the opening seven minutes, and
finished with 16 points, six assists, two blocks and four steals.
But after helping his team build a 23-10 advantage in the first half, Burleson turned the ball over twice on gift-wrapped passes that Northwestern turned into fast-break buckets.
The Gophers committed four turnovers in the final five minutes as the Wildcats closed the half with an eight point swing.
The Gophers play their second straight winless opponent in the Big Ten as they travel to Penn State (5-11, 0-5) on Wednesday.
By carrying over the energy and defensive play shown in the second half Saturday, Minnesota might provoke the home crowd to boo once again – this time at the Lions expense.