Wolverines shoot their way past Minnesota

The Gophers’ long losing streak has now reached 13 consecutive games.

Gophers sophomore Nate Mason runs the ball down the court in Williams Arena, where Minnesota fell to Michigan State 82-74 on Wednesday night.

Joe Sulik

Gophers sophomore Nate Mason runs the ball down the court in Williams Arena, where Minnesota fell to Michigan State 82-74 on Wednesday night.

Ryan Falk

Once again, the Gophers came close to their first Big Ten victory but stumbled in the game’s final minutes.
 
 
Minnesota used a second-half surge to pull within two points of Michigan with 1:37 remaining but ended up falling 82-74 Wednesday night at Williams Arena to extend its losing streak to 13 games.
 
 
“I felt like tonight we were going to break through,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “[There’s] been a lot of close losses. We got to find a way to break through. 
 
 
Michigan made 14 3-pointers in the game and shot 56 percent from long range. The Wolverines leading scorer was junior guard Derrick Walton Jr., who scored 26 points and made five threes.
 
 
Minnesota’s leading scorer was sophomore guard Nate Mason, who had 19 points, five assists and four rebounds.
 
 
Both teams started the game slow and were tied 5-5 during the first timeout. The Gophers (6-18, 0-12 Big Ten) were able to take a five-point lead following the timeout, but eventually the Wolverines were able to settle into a rhythm behind the arc.
 
 
“We’re going to lose [the 3-point] battle,” Pitino said. “We don’t have that type of personnel.”
 
 
While Michigan shot 53.6 percent in the first half and made nine threes, Minnesota only shot 36.7 percent.
 
 
The stark difference in shooting led to a 42-28 Wolverines lead at halftime even though the Gophers were leading in rebounds 20-15.
 
 
Walton Jr. had 19 first half points for Michigan on 7-9 shooting.
 
 
The Wolverines continued to score in the early parts of the second half but then the Minnesota offense started to find a groove in front of the home crowd.
 
 
The Gophers shot 57.1 percent after halftime and started to claw their way back into the game.
 
 
The team started to attack the basket more, led by Mason who had 13 second-half points.
 
 
“Second half we got more aggressive and started using our speed as a weapon,” Mason said. “We were determined to get to the rim. First half we [were] taking what they were giving us, and second half we just [took] what we were best at doing.”
 
 
Minnesota had 44 points in the paint total in the game, and freshman forward Jordan Murphy led the frontcourt with 14 points.
 
 
The Gophers also managed to hit their free throws to pull the score closer, something the team has struggled to do this season. The team was 16-19 at the line Wednesday night.
 
 
The second-half rally got the Gophers within two points late, but then the team fumbled its way to the finish.
 
 
Michigan took a timeout with 1:29 left and managed to regroup and stave off defeat.
 
 
“We showed great heart,” Pitino said. “They’re fighting and that’s all I can ask for right now, and hopefully we can find a way to get some wins.”