Shorthanded Gophers collapse in second half for loss

The Gophers committed 17 turnovers in Sunday’s game.

by Ryan Falk

The Gophers, with three players on the bench, fell apart in the second half Sunday to end their two-game winning streak.


Minnesota led by eight points at halftime but lost 84-71 to Illinois on the road. It was announced an hour before the game guards Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer would not play due to a violation of team rules.


“With the privilege of being a member of the University of Minnesota basketball program, there are expectations and standards to which we hold our student-athletes accountable, and they have failed to do so,” head coach Richard Pitino said in a statement before the game.


The suspensions forced freshman Stephon Sharp into the starting lineup for the first time all season. The guard had played 39 minutes all season before Sunday.


Freshman Ahmad Gilbert also made his third start of the season.


The Gophers (8-20, 2-14 Big Ten) were forced to turn to other inexperienced players throughout the game, and it showed in the second half. Minnesota was outscored 52-31 after halftime.


At first the team’s new lineups seemed to click. The Gophers scored the first 11 points of the game and led by as many as 12 in the first half.


Freshman forward Jordan Murphy took charge of the team with the three guards out of the game, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the first half.


Sharp also played well in the first half, adding nine points on 3-5 shooting.


Then Illini started to climb back at the end of the half and trailed 40-32 at the break.


Illinois came back stronger at the start of the second half and scored five consecutive points.


The Gophers inexperienced players struggled with turnovers. Minnesota had 11 turnovers in the second half alone, and the Illini took the lead for good six minutes into the half.


Sharp committed four of the team’s second-half turnovers and finished with seven in the game.


Illinois led by as many as 18 points in the second half and shot 73.9 percent after the break, including 50 percent from 3-point range.


The Illini’s sharp shooting and the Gophers sloppy second half gave Illinois a comfortable lead by the end of the game.


Murphy finished with 22 points in the loss, while Sharp had 19 and senior forward Joey King added 17.


“We know they’re capable of beating anybody,” Pitino said Saturday ahead of the game. “They made big plays [in our last game against them] so you have to give them credit.”