Utes too much as Gophers lose in preseason NIT

Adam Fink

It was billed as a battle of the freshmen Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

In a game of highly touted forwards, Minnesota men’s basketball rookie Kris Humphries and Utah’s first year star Andrew Bogut lived up to the hype.

And until the second half, it was only Humphries keeping the Gophers in the ballgame.

But in the end, Minnesota didn’t get enough offense and made crucial mistakes as Utah held on for a 66-54 win in the second round of the preseason NIT.

“We expended a lot of energy to come back,” Gophers assistant coach Bill Walker told WCCO radio

following the game. “The first six minutes were not good enough to come in here and beat them.”

Utah (2-0) advances to the preseason NIT Final Four next week in New York. The Gophers (1-1) are eliminated from the tournament.

After facing a double-digit deficit at halftime, Minnesota came out of the break with new life.

Humphries, who scored 14 of Minnesota’s 21 points in the first half, finished with 20 points. He added 10 rebounds.

But the Gophers found new options while on offense. Senior Michael Bauer came alive, finishing with 12 points after notching only three points in the opening stanza.

Guard Moe Hargrow, who didn’t score a point in the opening half, finished with eight points.

On the spurt of a 9-2 run, Minnesota cut Utah’s lead to 49-45 with just under seven minutes remaining. The Gophers closed the Utes lead through solid ball movement and balanced scoring.

However, Minnesota did not manage a point on its next three offensive possessions because of an offensive foul, turnover and off-balance shot.

Bogut was Utah’s answer inside all evening. The Australia native scored 19 points and added 18 rebounds.

While the 6-foot-10 post player shot from all over the court, Bogut scored the majority of his points from the low post, where he created matchup problems for Minnesota defenders all evening.

And with four minutes remaining, Utah’s lead was again 11 points, the same margin as at halftime.

The Gophers finished the game shooting 33.3 percent and were out-rebounded 40-28.

Despite shooting 6-for-10 to end the first half, Minnesota found itself trailing 32-21 at the break.

The story of the first half was Minnesota’s inability to score and a lack of rebounding.

The Gophers suffered separate scoring droughts of three-and-a-half and seven minutes. The latter resulted in turning a 10-9 Utah lead into a 20-9 double-digit deficit.

At that point, the Gophers were shooting 3-for-18 (17 percent).

It wasn’t just Minnesota’s lack of scoring; it was who was scoring.

While five Utah players finished with seven or more points, it appeared early on as if Minnesota might only have one.

Humphries scored two-thirds of Minnesota’s first half points and was the Gophers’ only consistent offensive threat.

Rebounding didn’t help the Gophers’ chances of making a run.

The Utes had nine offensive rebounds, and Minnesota turned the ball over seven times.

Minnesota experimented with a variety of defensive schemes. The Gophers used a matchup zone, man-to-man defense and a half court trap with mixed results.

Utah’s Nick Jacobson, a former local star at Roseville High School, finished with 13 points.