Joseph’s career day not enough to get the win

For the third straight game, someone came up huge off the bench for the University of Minnesota Gophers menâÄôs basketball team. That sounds encouraging, but it’s not. Because for the third straight game, no one else did much of anything. It was freshman Devoe Joseph’s career-high 23 points that kept the Gophers competitive with Penn State on Saturday, but only one other player scored more than six points as the Gophers lost 68-63. It was the fifth loss in eight games for the Gophers and their third straight on the road. After sitting at No. 19 in the nation a week ago, they’ve dropped out of the rankings and into a tie for fifth in the Big Ten. Against Indiana on Tuesday, it was Paul Carter who came off the bench to score 22 points and help the Gophers avoid an embarrassing loss to last-place Indiana. A game earlier, sophomore Blake Hoffarber scored 19 in a loss to Ohio State. Joseph scored all 23 of his points in the second half, 21 of which came on a school-record-tying seven three-pointers. The top high school prospect in Canada last year, Joseph played sparingly early in the season but has been among Minnesota’s top scorers the past four games. âÄúWe found somebody who wanted to step up and do some things,âÄù coach Tubby Smith said. âÄúNow the expectations will be different for him, to come in here and do the job. He is an excellent shooting guard, and he does a good job as back-up point.âÄù Sophomore point guard Al Nolen had 10 points, while the rest of the team combined for just 30. Leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook continued his extended slump, scoring four points and playing just 13 minutes in his fourth straight game failing to reach double-digits. Westbrook also led the team with four turnovers, in what has become perhaps Minnesota’s biggest weakness. The Gophers committed 19 turnovers for the second straight game, leading to 26 Penn State points. âÄúI care about how we need to stop turning the ball over,âÄù Smith said. âÄúHow we can start making some shots and getting to the free-throw line? That’s what I’m worried about. Everything else will take care of itself.âÄù The most costly turnover came with just more than a minute left and with the Gophers trailing by two. In their most important possession, Joseph tried a crossover dribble on Talor Battle and turned it over. Battle, who led the Nittany Lions with 21 points, finished with a layup and was fouled by Joseph. Battle missed his free throw, but the Gophers couldn’t come back. The foul was one of Minnesota’s season-high 28, which led to Penn State attempting twice as many free throws (28 to 14). The teams traded runs in the game’s last 10 minutes, and the Gophers led with less than three minutes left. Battle made a three-pointer to tie the game at 56 with 2:40 left, and Nolen missed a layup on the other end. In the final five minutes, the Gophers missed four of six shots (Joseph made a pair of three-pointers) and turned the ball over four times. âÄúWe just weren’t able to do the things that we used to do,âÄù Smith said. âÄúWe just couldn’t do some things like taking care of the ball and making some clutch plays in the stretch. We didn’t get the stops that we needed to get, and this is what you get.âÄù