Gophers get a pummeling from Wisconsin at Williams

Minnesota got down early, falling behind 19-8 minutes in, and never recovering in the 63-47 loss Sunday.

With two minutes remaining Sunday afternoon, Minnesota sophomore guard Lawrence Westbrook soared for a defensive rebound as the shot clock was about to expire, only to arrive on the ground with his feet in bounds but the tip of ball painting the out of bounds line – Wisconsin ball.

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what: Men’s basketball
when: 6 p.m., Wednesday
where: Evanston, Ill.

A fitting sequence, considering nothing seemed to go right for Tubby Smith’s squad Sunday.

Still searching for a signature win to put on their résumé after failed attempts against Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State, the Gophers (13-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) welcomed rival 13th-ranked Wisconsin to Williams Arena for the “Border Battle” Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t much of a battle. Instead, it was a season-low scoring output which resulted in a lopsided 63-47 loss to the Badgers in front of a sellout crowd of 14,625 at the Barn.

The Badgers (18-3, 8-1), led by a game-high 20 points from sophomore point guard Trevon Hughes, never trailed Sunday. Opening up a lead early, they were never in danger of losing.

Much of that had to do with Wisconsin playing sound, cohesive basketball – atypical of a Bo Ryan coached team.

But it also had to do with poor Gophers shooting (36 percent from the field for the game) mixed with turnovers and defensive breakdowns.

Wisconsin opened the game shooting 80 percent from the field (8-of-10), and after senior center Brian Butch drilled a top-of-the-key three-pointer the Badgers were up 19-8 just minutes in.

“It’s hard to bounce back when a good team has you from the start,” Westbrook, who had a team-high 11 points, said.

That statement proved true Sunday, as the Badgers ran with their early momentum; leading 39-23 at the half and by as many as 22 when the Gophers went five-and-a-half minutes without a field goal in the second half – silencing the thousands decked in maroon and gold.

Not surprisingly, Smith continues to be disturbed with his team’s habit of slow starts.

“We have to get off to a better start. I don’t know if today we came ready to play,” he said.

“When you come out and give up open shots like we did Ö you can’t win a basketball game if you aren’t covering the ball,” said Smith, whose team gave up 57.7 percent shooting in the first half.

Ryan said there was no special formula for Wisconsin’s quick start opposed to Minnesota’s slow one; rather, sometimes things just work out the way.

“Do you want to have those kind of starts? Sure you do. I want to have a start like that, a middle like that and an end like that,” Ryan said.

“Sometimes I watch very good offensive teams have those afternoons or those nights. It wasn’t because (the Gophers) weren’t trying to get things done.”

Smith, though, said he needs more from his three seniors. After calling out guard Lawrence McKenzie, forward Dan Coleman and center Spencer Tollackson before Thursday’s tilt with Michigan, the threesome combined for 49 points.

On Sunday, the veteran combination poured in 20 points on 8-of-20 shooting.

“We have some veteran guys who need to have good games.” he said. “We have to have that type of leadership. If we don’t, we’re going to struggle.”

Smith said all he can do is go back to the drawing board with Northwestern three days away.

“All you can do is be positive now,” Smith said. “It’s never as bad as it seems, it’s never as good as it seems.”