Abysmal effort slims tourney hopes

An 83-55 loss at Michigan could move the Gophers off the bubble.

by Marco LaNave

In need of every possible win as the regular season winds down, the Gophers menâÄôs basketball team took a hard fall on the road Tuesday night. Minnesota suffered a season-worst 28-point loss in an 83-55 runaway for Michigan at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. âÄúIâÄôll be honest âĦ I never saw this coming,âÄù Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said in a radio interview after the game. âÄúI guess some teams just have a way of taking your spirit, and I thought tonight thatâÄôs what happened to us.âÄù The Wolverines (14-15 overall, 7-10 Big Ten) shot 60 percent from the field in completing a regular-season sweep of the Gophers for the second straight season. Once again, the Gophers (17-12, 8-9) couldnâÄôt stop Wolverines forward DeShawn Sims and guard Manny Harris. Sims, who scored 27 points in MichiganâÄôs win Feb. 11 at Williams Arena, scored 23 points in the final regular-season home game of his career. Harris, a junior, added 22 points. The Gophers led for the first seven minutes until HarrisâÄô 3-pointer gave Michigan an 11-9 advantage. Gophers senior guard Lawrence Westbrook hit a 3-point shot of his own to give Minnesota a 12-11 lead with 12:43 remaining in the first half. It was WestbrookâÄôs only basket (he had six assists) in the game and the GophersâÄô final lead, as Michigan closed the half on a 32-17 run. Minnesota shot 46 percent but made just three of 16 3-point attempts. Senior forward Damian Johnson scored 13 points and had four rebounds, and sophomore center Colton Iverson added 10 points. Minnesota finished the regular season with a 3-7 road record. The GophersâÄô regular season finale will be against Iowa at 5 p.m. Sunday at Williams Arena. TuesdayâÄôs loss guaranteed the Gophers will play their first game of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday, March 11, and will need three wins to reach the conference championship.