Gophers win, let Furman ‘hang around too long’

Adam Fink

Two seconds remained in a tied game Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena and Minnesota’s men’s basketball team appeared to be headed toward a loss at the hands of an upstart Furman squad.

Paladins star forward Maleye Ndoye found himself with an open look at an 18-foot jumper and a chance to be the hero.

The ball bounced around the rim, however, sending the game into overtime and jolting the Gophers awake.

In the extra period, four Minnesota players scored and three Paladins fouled out as the Gophers went on to win 91-84.

“We were given a gift on the miss,” said Gophers guard Ben Johnson, referring to Ndoye’s shot. “Thankfully, we scrapped this one out. We let them hang around too long.”

Ndoye was a key reason. The forward finished with 32 points and nine rebounds.

The Gophers, however, almost didn’t make it to overtime. Twice in the final minute of regulation, Minnesota had to score to tie the game.

Following a timeout, Johnson made a jumper from the free throw line with 48 seconds left in front of three Furman defenders.

After Eric Webb, a Grand Rapids, Minn., native, made two free throws, the Gophers (2-1) again had to force a tie.

This time, Michael Bauer scored a layup following an offensive rebound, setting up the final sequence.

“We didn’t want (the game) until overtime,” said forward Kris Humphries, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds. “It got to the point where we weren’t going to win – we were lucky to get to overtime – and we had a second chance.”

The main concern was the Gophers defensive struggles. The team hadn’t played in 10 days and Minnesota coach Dan Monson felt the defensive end was not up to par.

Furman (2-2) scored 42 points in the paint and was also patient with its offense. In addition, the Gophers weren’t quick on double teaming in the low post.

“We got penetrated on too much,” Monson said. “We were worried about their perimeter shooters. We did a good job on them.

“(But) they got the ball in the middle of the court.”

Monson said defensive specialist Moe Hargrow wasn’t in the flow of the game and he used the junior sparingly.

Bright spots on defense came from Johnson and reserve Stan Gaines.

Gaines played a career-high 32 minutes, including tough defense on Ndoye in the stretch run of regulation.

Johnson finished with a career-high 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Monson said the guard’s offensive outburst – he was only averaging 4.5 points entering the game – was in large part because of Johnson’s defensive scrappiness.

“He was the difference in the game, not Kris Humphries,” said Furman coach Larry Davis, a former Gophers assistant in the mid 1990s. “We had some good looks at the end, but they did not fall for us.”

From the opening tip, it looked like Minnesota was going to run away with the game. Humphries had nine points less than four minutes into the game.

And the Gophers built a 35-26 lead with 6:13 left in the opening stanza.

But it was at this point that the half – and the game turned.

Humphries sat down with two fouls and an 11-2 Furman run tied the game at 37-37.

Minnesota never regained momentum. The Paladins took their largest lead of the game at 48-43 early in the second half before the Gophers rallied.

“Big men have more of a tendency to foul,” said Monson, defending his decision to sit Humphries for the remainder of the half. “It changed the flow of the game.”

After not playing since losing at Utah on Nov. 19, the Gophers were happy to just get out and play against an opponent.

The team also hopes to use the game as a springboard for the rest of the season.

Minnesota plays at Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday night.

“We came out a little rusty,” said Adam Boone, who added 17 points. “Beating up on yourselves in practice isn’t the same as a game.”

And until overtime, the Gophers played as though there was nothing at stake.

  • According to Monson, it “doesn’t look good” that center Jeff Hagen will play against Virginia.

Hagen suffered a high ankle sprain in practice early last week and sat out Sunday’s game.