Minnesota shucks Cornhuskers 57-48

by Bob Wothe

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team simply would not give up Wednesday night.

No matter the 17-2 run the team surrendered to Nebraska in the first half, allowing itself to fall into a 13-point hole. No matter the team chipped away at that deficit to tie the game at 40-40, only to see Nebraska take a 45-40 lead with just more than four minutes left.

Instead, the Gophers just bided their time and waited to make their move.

Minnesota (4-3) went on a 15-0 after falling behind by that five-point deficit, eventually winning 57-48 in Lincoln, Neb.

Minnesota held Nebraska (3-2) to 33.3-percent shooting to earn its first nonconference road win since Dec. 7, 2000.

For a team that said it hopes to win ugly games in a blue-collar fashion, this could serve as highlight film.

After Nebraska made the lead 45-40, Minnesota’s pair of junior college transfers took over.

J’son Stamper and Vincent Grier combined to score 13 of the Gophers’ next 17 points as the whole team bore down on the defensive end.

Stamper’s old-fashioned three-point play brought the Gophers back into the game at 45-43 when it appeared the team might roll over.

After another old-fashioned three-point play from senior center Jeff Hagen, who scored 11 points on the night, Grier hit a three-pointer with just more than two minutes left to put the Gophers ahead by four at 49-45.

And as the game slipped under a minute, he hit another three from almost the exact same spot to put the game on ice at 52-45.

The key to the comeback might have been Minnesota’s rebounding.

Though the Gophers were pounded on the glass by a 13-4 margin early, they fought back to hold a 38-29 edge by the end of the game – a decisive victory that played a large role in their comeback against an opponent that had out-rebounded its competition by an average of 22.

In a start that was astonishing because of its utter lack of offense, both teams failed to score until Nebraska took a 2-0 lead with 14:37 left in the first half.

Turnovers and a lack of rebounding were a big problem for Minnesota early, but the Gophers were able to stem the tide and close to within 26-17 at the half.

The relative success Minnesota had at the end of the first half carried over into the second half. The Gophers opened the half on a 19-8 run, sparked by three Aaron Robinson three-pointers that gave them a 36-34 lead with just under nine minutes left.

But after the last Robinson three, it appeared as if the Gophers would run out of gas.

The Cornhuskers scored nine of the next 13 points to take the 45-40 lead.