Shooting struggles plague Gophers in loss to Michigan State

The Gophers hit just 36.7 percent of their shots against the Spartans.

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to shoot at Williams Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1. The Gophers defeated the Bulldogs 109-53.

Jack Rodgers

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to shoot at Williams Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1. The Gophers defeated the Bulldogs 109-53.

by Paul Hodowanic

Saturday’s game against No. 9 Michigan State (19-5, 10-3) provided the Gophers (16-8, 6-7) a huge opportunity to boost their NCAA tournament resume, as the Spartans had lost three games in a row to unranked opponents.

However, shooting woes cost Minnesota as it lost 79-55 as for the team’s third consecutive loss. 

The game also showcased Michigan State’s continued dominance over Minnesota. The Spartans have won 16 of the last 17 games at home against the Gophers and 19 of the last 23 games overall.

Shooting, specifically from the 3-point line, has been a consistent struggle for the Gophers for much of season —  the team ranks last in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at nearly 31 percent. The poor shooting has shown itself in a major way in the past three matchups as their 3-point percentage over that stretch is just under 19 percent. 

“We [have] got to get our offensive confidence back because we are pretty easy to guard right now,” head coach Richard Pitino told the Gopher radio network.

The Gophers shot 2-16 from three against Purdue and 1-13 against Wisconsin. On Saturday the team improved slightly, but still struggled to create open looks and find the bottom of the basket, converting on 5-14. 

Minnesota’s overall field goal percentage was underwhelming as well, as the team hit just over 36 percent of their shots. The Gophers’ 18-49 performance was considerably below their season average of 44 percent. 

“Offensively we are clearly in our heads, certain guys are and when you miss shots and take tough shots it lets them to get out on the break and on the road you can’t do that,” Pitino said. 

The catalysts of the Gophers shooting offense were unable to get into a rhythm as Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey combined to shoot 3-10 from the floor. Coffey was unable to get either of his 3-point attempts to fall and didn’t score until 8:23 left in the second half. 

Freshmen Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu were the lone bright spots for the Gophers as they scored 17 and 12 points respectively. 

“[Kalscheur’s] a good defender, he’s a good player,” said Pitino. “I’m excited about him and about all the young guys.”

The Gophers will look to flip their recent shooting performances on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at Nebraska as they take on the Cornhuskers.