Regular season ends with loss on the road

by C.J. Spang

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team ended the Big Ten regular season the same way it began.

The Gophers (14-13, 5-11 Big Ten) lost to Northwestern 57-53 on Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill., extending their losing-streak to three games.

“They were in control of the tempo for the majority of the game, and we had to play from behind,” coach Dan Monson said.

After nearly nine minutes of play, the Wildcats had a 12-6 lead as Minnesota made just two field goals in that span, reminiscent of its slow start against Northwestern earlier this year.

The Wildcats (14-14, 6-10 Big Ten) had a 10-point lead – their biggest of the half – with five seconds left in the first half, but senior guard Adam Boone hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to cut the deficit to 31-24 at the break.

That lead was due, in part, to Northwestern’s three-point shooting, which came up big against the Gophers’ 2-3 zone.

“They came out in a 2-3 zone, which I expected,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “I felt we passed the ball very nicely and made a few shots in the first half.”

The Wildcats weren’t spectacular from the field, knocking down just 10 of 24 shots, but their five three-pointers were the difference.

After 10 minutes went by in the second half, Minnesota couldn’t get any closer than five points.

The Gophers were able to pull within four points, 51-47, with 5:04 after senior guard Boone hit a three.

After that three, Northwestern made just one field goal in the two minutes, while Minnesota hit six of seven free throws to tie the game at 53 with 1:53 left in the contest.

Then there was drama.

Leading by two and looking to add to their 55-53 lead, the Wildcats turned the ball over with 12 seconds left.

The Gophers called a time-out to draw up their plan.

“We didn’t know what defense they were going to be in,” Monson said. “We were trying to penetrate and kick and create offensive penetration.

“I said, ‘Don’t be afraid to win it with a three here.’ “

Minnesota was able to kick the ball out to sophomore Dan Coleman for the three-pointer, but Coleman was unable to knock it down.

Northwestern had three players score in double-figures and was led by the Big Ten’s fourth-leading scorer senior forward Vedran Vukusic who dropped in a game-high 20 points. Junior swingman Tim Doyle added 12 points and senior guard Mohamed Hachad added 11 points.

The Gophers got a big lift from freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala who netted 15 points off the bench on a perfect four-for-four from beyond the arc.

Another big contributor off the bench was sophomore center Spencer Tollackson who notched 10 points. It was the fourth time in five games that the sophomore center scored in double figures off the bench.

The lone Minnesota starter to score in double figures was senior guard Vincent Grier who had 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

“I thought our guys Ö did a lot of good things,” Monson said. “But again, you go on the road in the Big Ten and good doesn’t do it, and we just didn’t get it done.”