Minnesota bucked by Ohio State

The Gophers shot just 3-for-25 from three-point range and blew a nine-point lead.

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has talked all season about playing with confidence down the stretch and making those few extra plays to grind out a win.

After 11 Big Ten losses – many in the final few minutes – the Gophers on Wednesday night looked like a team lacking poise and worn down from a season of losses.

In the final 10 minutes of Ohio State’s 70-59 win in front of 12,115 at Williams Arena, the Buckeyes made the key steals, grabbed the offensive rebounds and made clutch baskets, and Minnesota never closed the deficit to under eight points.

“I just think a season like this takes a toll on guys,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “I think that was apparent when things didn’t go perfect for us. The accumulation of this season was a team that didn’t have confidence when they needed it.”

Trailing by 10 points with 9:08 remaining in the game, Minnesota (10-16, 2-12 Big Ten) failed to clamp down, essentially trading baskets the rest of the game.

In losses to Indiana, Michigan State and Illinois at home earlier this year, the Gophers were competitive until the waning moments.

Against Purdue last Saturday and Wednesday against Ohio State (13-13, 5-8), Minnesota never made a second-half run.

Instead the Gophers turned the ball over four times in the final minutes against the Buckeyes, and, for the second straight game, Monson emptied his bench with more than one minute remaining.

“This whole season, we have been able to (make runs),” said Ben Johnson, who scored 11 points. “For some reason, these past couple games we haven’t had that energy.”

Also, Minnesota’s postseason hopes are all but gone. The Gophers will not finish the season with a .500 record, and are thus ineligible for a National Invitational Tournament berth.

The Gophers can only make the NCAA tournament if they win the Big Ten tournament’s automatic bid.

“I don’t think any college basketball team would tell you they want to go to the NIT,” guard Adam Boone said. “It’s a fine tournament, but it’s not the one you want to be in.”

If the Gophers want to make a run at the conference tournament in Indianapolis, they will need to solve their woeful shooting.

Against Purdue last Saturday, Minnesota made a season-low 16 baskets.

On Wednesday, the Gophers shot 35.7 percent from the field. But that number looks solid next to Minnesota’s 12 percent (3-for-25) shooting from three-point range.

Forward Kris Humphries led the Gophers with 17 points and 10 rebounds but struggled from the floor. The freshman shot 4-for-18, including 1-for-10 from the field in the opening stanza.

“We couldn’t battle our way back,” center Jeff Hagen said. “We couldn’t make shots.”

Minnesota went almost 12-and-a-half minutes – spanning both halves – with only three field goals and one free throw.

That stretch saw the Gophers nine-point lead turn into a 44-35 deficit with 11:05 remaining.

While Minnesota contained Ohio State’s post-play, Buckeyes guards Tony Stockman (21 points) and Brandon Fuss-Cheatham (12 points) torched the Gophers from the perimeter.