Gophers drop third straight in Miami

Minnesota led by 5 going into the half but shot 33 percent in the second half.

by Marco LaNave

The Minnesota menâÄôs basketball team had yet another chance to pull out a late-game victory on Wednesday night. Unfortunately for the Gophers, though, the only good thing about the closing minutes of the last three games is that they will be accustomed to these situations should they arise later in the season. Minnesota (4-3) squandered its solid early shooting and fell, 63-58, to Miami (8-0) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla. âÄúWeâÄôre just not executing at the end of the game,âÄù Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to get some practice time in and work on some of these late-game situations because we just coughed the ball up; we just start dribbling [and] going crazy.âÄù It was a back-and-forth game until Hurricanes forward Dwayne Collins made a jumper to give Miami a 55-53 lead with 1:58 remaining. In the next 1:26, the Gophers committed three turnovers that led to 6 points for the Hurricanes who put the game out of reach. âÄúWe shouldnâÄôt panic like that, thatâÄôs something that concerns me,âÄù Smith said. âÄúGuys try to do too much âÄî take it upon themselves [as individuals] to win.âÄù Minnesota didnâÄôt seem to feel much pressure as the team built a 30-25 halftime lead. The Gophers made 12 of 21 first-half field goals âÄî including four of nine from 3-point range âÄî and overcame deficits with a couple of brief scoring runs. Senior guard Lawrence Westbrook scored 11 points in the first 13:13 but made just one of six shots in the second half. He still led the team with 14 points in the game. Another all-around poor shooting performance doomed the Gophers, who shot just 33 percent in the second half. The Hurricanes responded in the second half, shooting 52 percent and committing just three second-half turnovers after the Gophers had scored 15 points off of Miami turnovers in the first half. Smith acknowledged the GophersâÄô early capitalization on turnovers and rebounding success in the second half âÄî Minnesota outrebounded Miami 25-15 in the second half âÄî but pointed to costly mistakes in the final minutes. âÄúFree throws, free throws, free throwsâĦjust call it the way it is,âÄù Smith said. âÄúWe just had a tough time.âÄù The Gophers made just seven of 15 free throws. Senior forward Damian Johnson, who had made 76 percent of his free throws until Wednesday, missed four of five from the line, including two when the game was tied 51-51 with 4:38 remaining. âÄúThose are veteran players on the line; I donâÄôt know what else to say,âÄù Smith said. âÄúThose didnâÄôt lose the game, but they certainly didnâÄôt help.âÄù The GophersâÄô three-game losing streak matches their longest under Smith, who still sees some positives from the recent rough stretch. âÄúI like what weâÄôre doing. WeâÄôre scrapping; weâÄôre clawing,âÄù Smith said.