Wolverines stop Gophers’ run

Tim Klobuchar

CHICAGO — Everyone remembers, as painful as it might be, the typical grade-school bully.
Everyone can recall him stealing a ball from the smaller kid, then holding it above his head, raising it just out of reach every time the little tyke made a jump for it.
Sometimes, the bully takes pity and gives the ball back. But on Saturday at the United Center, Michigan just kept the ball after toying with the Gophers, and moved on in the Big Ten tournament with an 85-69 win. The Wolverines’ romp left the Gophers short of the NCAA tournament bid they were hoping for after their 76-73 upset over top-seeded Michigan State on Friday.
The bigger, more talented Wolverines ended upstart Minnesota’s run through the conference tournament in the semifinals by pushing the eighth-seeded Gophers around inside, pulverizing them from the outside and repeatedly dashing several brief flashes of comebacks.
Although the loss ended Minnesota’s (15-15) chances of a shocking conference title and the accompanying automatic NCAA berth, the Gophers didn’t run back to the Twin Cities crying, because their season likely isn’t over — a bid in the NIT probably awaits them.
“It’s not that disappointing,” said Gophers forward Quincy Lewis, who led Minnesota with 25 points. “We lost to a great Michigan team that’s really playing well right now. They shot the lights out.”
The Wolverines reversed what the Gophers did to them when the teams met on Feb. 8 in Minneapolis. In the last meeting, Minnesota nailed 14 threes, a temporary Big Ten record. Saturday, Michigan went 13-for-23 from long range, including four each from Louis Bullock and Jerod Ward.
A 15-0 Michigan run midway through the first half sealed the Gophers’ fate for the rest of the game. From that point on, Minnesota cut the lead to around 10 on a few occasions, only to have the Wolverines pull away again.
Lewis was almost entirely responsible for providing that illusion, scoring 19 points in the first eight-plus minutes of the second half. His 25 points tied the season high he set in Thursday’s first-round win over Northwestern.
“I thought he was going for 50 points the way he was shooting,” senior guard Eric Harris said. “He kept us in there and didn’t let us get blown out. Without him we would’ve had a much longer night.”
As it was, the Gophers had a long enough night contending not only with Michigan’s outside firepower, but also the ample girth of Robert Traylor inside. Traylor scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Amazingly, his rebound total was the same as one of the Gophers that had to guard him — junior walk-on Jason Stanford, who not only had barely played all year, but also gave up more than 100 pounds to the 300-plus Traylor. He also absorbed a shot from the All-Big Ten center in the second half.
“It’s hard to get around him,” Stanford said. “You keep going, and he’s still there. He caught me with a big forearm across my face. I didn’t know who it was because it was all black for a minute. I looked it up and saw it was Traylor. He’s a big boy.”
Stanford, who scored a career-high eight points for the second straight day, turned his right ankle later in the game, but returned to grab a few more rebounds.
Joked forward Miles Tarver after the game: “He’s had two great games. He’s going in the NBA draft. He’s already declared early.”
Stanford logged heavy minutes against Michigan State and Michigan not only because he was playing well, but also because coach Clem Haskins had little choice. Forward Rob Schoenrock was still nursing a sprained ankle and saw his only action of the tournament Saturday when he played three minutes.
Antoine Broxsie, another forward, missed the team’s last two games of the tournament with the flu. Guard Kevin Clark played with a hip pointer.
The rest of the Gophers played to near exhaustion, especially leading scorer Sam Jacobson. His production dropped in three consecutive games, from 23 against Northwestern to nine (on 4-for-14 shooting) against Michigan, just the fourth time this season he’s failed to hit double digits.
Jacobson isn’t known for showing emotion, but he looked especially expressionless, and his posture slumped, after Minnesota’s last two games. Asked if fatigue might have been a factor in Jacobson’s performance, Haskins said:
“You’ve got eyes like I do. You just sit and watch. What do you think? Do you think he was tired? He was drained.”
Still, even if Jacobson had contributed his 18-point average, it wouldn’t have made the difference Saturday.
“It would’ve helped,” Haskins said. “I think the wear and tear and physical play for three days in a row really got to him today. He just didn’t have the lift or kick or however you want to describe it to get the shots. Fatigue became a factor not just for him, but for the whole ballclub.
“And going against Michigan, it’s not making excuses. They’re pretty damn good.”

SATURDAY’S SUMMARY
Gophers 29 40 — 69
No. 17 Michigan 42 43 — 85

Gophers (15-15)
Jacobson 4-14 1-1 9, Lewis 10-21 0-1 25, Sanden 1-2 0-0 2, Clark 1-7 2-2 4, Harris 5-13 2-2 15, Nathaniel 0-1 0-0 0, Shoenrock 0-0 0-0 0, Ja. Stanford 3-6 2-4 8, Je. Stanford 0-0 0-0 0, Tarver 1-2 4-6 6. Totals 25-66 11-16 69.
Michigan (23-8)
Conlan 4-4 0-2 10, Ward 4-9 5-6 17, Traylor 9-14 0-0 18, Reid 3-5 2-2 11, Bullock 6-15 7-7 23, Asselin 0-1 1-2 1, Baston 2-4 1-4 5, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Vignier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-52 16-23 85.
Three-point goals — Minnesota 8-22 (Lewis 5-9, Harris 3-5, Clark 0-2, Ja.Stanford 0-2, Jacobson 0-4), Michigan 13-23 (Ward 4-7, Bullock 4-9, Reid 3-5, Conlan 2-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Minnesota 36 (Ja. Stanford 9), Michigan 38 (Traylor 9). Assists — Minnesota 15 (Clark 4), Michigan 22 (Conlan 8). Total fouls — Minnesota 17, Michigan 17. A-21,711.


FRIDAY’S SUMMARY
Gophers 37 39 — 76
No. 12 Michigan St. 34 39 — 73

Gophers
Jacobson 5-13 3-6 13, Lewis 2-3 3-3 7, Sanden 1-7 0-0 2, Clark 4-8 0-0 8, Harris 10-12 5-6 29, Nathaniel 0-1 1-2 1, Ja. Stanford 4-5 0-0 8, Tarver 1-3 6-8 8. Totals 27-52 18-25 76.
Michigan State
Smith 3-8 2-3 8, Klein 3-8 0-0 8, Hutson 5-5 3-4 13, Cleaves 2-18 7-10 13, Bell 3-5 6-6 12, Granger 1-2 0-0 2, Guess 0-0 0-0 0, Peterson 3-8 1-4 7, Thomas 2-3 0-0 4, Wiley 0-1 6-6 6. Totals 22-58 25-33 73.
Three-point goals — Minnesota 4-11 (Harris 4-6, Lewis 0-1, Clark 0-1 Nathaniel 0-1, Jacobson 0-2), Michigan St. 4-22 (Klein 2-6, Cleaves 2-11, Peterson 0-5). Fouled out — Sanden. Rebounds — Minnesota 27 (Harris 5), Michigan St. 42 (Smith 10). Assists — Minnesota 14 (Clark 5), Michigan St. 18 (Cleaves 6). Total fouls — Minnesota 26, Michigan St. 23. A-21,711.