Upset eludes U in final seconds

by Tim Klobuchar

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Six seconds and a two-point deficit showed on the scoreboard when Gophers forward Miles Tarver trudged to the bench after fouling out against No. 11 Purdue on Wednesday night.
The Mackey Arena fans serenaded Tarver with the familiar Williams Arena chant of “Right! Left! Right!” with every step he took toward the bench. They yelled “Sit down!” as he prepared to take a seat. Tarver, ever the jokester, shot right back up, robbing the fans of a little fun.
It would have been more appropriate had Tarver remained seated.
In a game when the Gophers made several unexpected moves to produce thoughts of an upset, they had finally run out of surprises. Purdue’s Brian Cardinal hit both free throws after Tarver’s foul for a four-point lead, sealing an 87-83 win and with it, possibly any post-season aspirations Minnesota (12-14, 5-10 in the Big Ten) had beyond the conference tournament next week.
“If we can play like that, I feel confident with the Big Ten tournament,” Haskins said. “We can get a few wins, and maybe advance (to the NCAA tournament).”
Minnesota certainly appeared like it might be on its way to at least the NIT throughout much of Wednesday’s game, leading by nine points with 16:50 left to play. From there, the two teams played like they were attached by a rope, one pulling momentum from the other, and vice versa.
The Gophers had a few chances to make the final tug. Quincy Lewis missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer with just more than a minute left, and Sam Jacobson’s three-point attempt from the right wing with seven seconds left and Minnesota down 83-81 rimmed out.
“It looked good, it felt good, it didn’t miss badly,” Jacobson said.
While the Gophers shot 9-for-14 from long range, the Boilermakers (23-6, 11-4), particularly guard Alan Eldridge, seemed to have cornered the market on missing badly for much of the game. With Jaraan Cornell (50 percent from beyond the arc) out with an ankle injury and star Chad Austin (5-for-15 shooting) struggling, Purdue turned to Eldridge.
For most of the game, he was a disappointment, hitting just two of his first 11 shots.
“When I took him out in the second half, and we were struggling, I told him, Hey, you’ve got to get in there and make three threes for us to win,'” Purdue coach Gene Keady said. “It was a stab in the dark, but I had to give him confidence. He’s a good shooter.”
Keady’s stab was on the mark. Eldridge did hit a trio of three-pointers — on consecutive possessions — in the second half. When he was finally doused, the Boilermakers had gone from a one-point lead to an eight-point bulge at 77-69.
That finished the Gophers — sort of.
Three-pointers by Jacobson and Kevin Clark and a fast-break layup by Eric Harris closed the gap to 82-81 with 1:52 left.
“(Eldridge) hit three big buckets to break our backs,” Haskins said. “We made some plays to get back into it, and we still had a chance to win, but Sam’s shot didn’t go down.”
That the Gophers still had opportunities to pull off the upset was an upset in itself. With 6-foot-8 forward Rob Schoenrock out with a sprained right ankle, they were playing short-handed inside against big bangers Cardinal and Brad Miller, who finished with a game-high 28 points.
Miller did plenty of damage from the free throw line, where he was 14-of-16. He scored 11 points in the first 4:12 of the second half, pulling the Boilermakers to within two after the Gophers had taken a 46-39 advantage into the half.
Predictably, Minnesota went on another run to boost its lead to eight. Then, however, Purdue’s size, coupled with Eldridge’s hot shooting, wore down the Gophers.
Kyle Sanden, Lewis and Jacobson all picked up their fourth fouls in the first 10 minutes of the second half, putting them on the bench and the Boilermakers on the free throw line. Purdue hit 31-of-38 free throws, compared to 14-of-17 for Minnesota.
The Boilermakers also crashed the boards, outrebounding the Gophers 22-10 in the second half. Asked if Minnesota needed Schoenrock inside, Jacobson said: “We needed somebody.”
The loss was pivotal in the Gophers’ hopes for an NIT bid, which requires at least a .500 record. Minnesota must now win its regular-season finale Saturday at home against Northwestern, then win two games in the Big Ten tournament to be eligible.
The Gophers, who will be the eight-seed in the Big Ten tournament, would have to play the top seed, either Michigan State or Illinois, in the second round if they win their first-round game against Wisconsin or Northwestern. The Gophers have their eyes on an even longer long-shot, however — the NCAA bid that goes to the winner.
“We still believe we have a good shot to win the Big Ten tournament,” said Harris, who led Minnesota with 22 points and seven assists. “We’re still focusing on the NCAAs.”

Gophers 46 37 — 83
Purdue 39 48 — 87

GOPHERS (12-14)
Lewis 6-12 0-0 14, Sanden 1-3 0-0 2, Jacobson 5-12 3-3 15, Clark 7-12 1-3 18, Harris 6-14 8-8 22, Nathaniel 1-3 2-2 4, Ja. Stanford 2-2 0-1 4, Je. Stanford 0-0 0-0 0, Broxsie 0-0 0-0 0, Tarver 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 30-60 14-17 83.

PURDUE (23-6)
Robinson 7-14 4-6 18, Cardinal 1-2 8-10 10, Miller 7-11 14-16 28, Austin 5-15 1-2 11, Eldridge 5-16 0-0 14, Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, McQuay 1-2 4-4 6, Kerkhof 0-0 0-0 0, Mayfield 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-60 31-38 87.

3-Point goals — Minnesota 9-14 (Clark 3-3, Jacobson 2-3, Harris 2-4, Lewis 2-4), Purdue 4-13 (Eldridge 4-11, Austin 0-2). Fouled out — Tarver, Lewis. Rebounds —Minnesota 24 (Clark 8), Purdue 41 (Miller 9). Assists — Minnesota 13 (Harris 7), Purdue 18 (Cardinal 4). Total fouls — Minnesota 28, Purdue 19. A-14,123.