Gophers defense digging large holes

Minnesota gives up an average of 74.2 points per game, 12th in the Big Ten.

Minnesota forward Joey King pushes through Indiana’s defense at Williams Arena on Saturday, Jan. 16 where the Gophers lost to the Hoosiers 70-63.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Joey King pushes through Indiana’s defense at Williams Arena on Saturday, Jan. 16 where the Gophers lost to the Hoosiers 70-63.

Ryan Falk

The Gophers struggle to get stops on the floor, and that’s one reason why the team’s losing streak hasn’t ended.
 
 
Minnesota is now up to 12 consecutive losses, thanks in large part to a defense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten by allowing 74.2 points per game.
 
 
Currently, the team lets opponents shoot 44.5 percent from the field, which puts them at 12th in the conference. The Gophers also rank 11th in the Big Ten in three-point defense.
 
 
The team had one of its worst defensive performances of the season last Thursday against Northwestern, allowing the Wildcats to shoot 53.7 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three in an 82-58 loss.
 
 
“[Games] can get away from you. It got away from us then,” head coach Richard Pitino said.
 
 
The slip up in Evanston, Ill., came after the team started to show improvement on the defensive end in close losses.
 
 
“There’s a reason why we were up at Indiana. We had Illinois beat. We were in there with Purdue. We were in there with Michigan State, at Michigan,” Pitino said. “It was defense.”
 
 
With the loss to Northwestern, the Gophers are four games shy of tying the 16-game losing streak by the program’s team in 1986-87.
 
 
During that time, the team, in its first year under head coach Clem Haskins, gave up an average of 74.7 points and allowed opponents to shoot 52.7 percent from the field.
 
 
The current team is also ninth in the Big Ten in steals after ranking first in the conference last year.
 
 
Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer leads Minnesota in steals with 21, but five players on last year’s team had more. The Gophers’ young players have not pressed as much on defense this season. 
 
 
Creating more turnovers on defense could help an offense that has also struggled, as the Gophers only shot 33.3 percent at Northwestern.
 
 
“It was a little bit of a lack of maturity [against Northwestern],” senior forward Joey King said. “We were down 15 by half, and we just kind of struggled to get our minds right.
 
 
And when you’re not scoring the ball, not making shots and it’s not going in the hoop, it kind of led to some lapses on defense.”
 
 
The Gophers’ next opponent is Michigan, a team they were able to hold down on defense in a 74-69 loss on Jan. 20. The Wolverines shot 36.5 percent in the game.
 
 
“Coming back here, Michigan at home, [the defensive plan] is no different,” King said. “We’re going to chase them off the three and do everything we can to slap down on their drives and still close out to shooters.”