Three-point barrage keys Gophers’ win

Tim Klobuchar

Long after Eric Harris, Sam Jacobson and company are done with their Gophers basketball careers, any bitterness they still harbor about the 1998 season will momentarily fade when they think about Saturday’s 88-78 victory over Michigan.
They can temporarily discard all the losses and instead reminisce about the one game all season when the stars were aligned properly, the basketball gods smiled on them and they could not miss a shot.
Supernatural phenomena seemed reasonable Saturday, as Minnesota buried a school-record 14 three-pointers (in 20 attempts) on its way to its fourth straight win over Michigan at Williams Arena. The Wolverines haven’t won at the Barn since 1993, when Chris Webber and the Fab Five were sophomores.
The Gophers’ long-range barrage tied a Big Ten record — for a few hours. Purdue broke it with 16 three-pointers in a 107-75 win at Ohio State on Saturday night.
“Wow. Who said the Gophers can’t shoot?” said coach Clem Haskins after the game.
Anyone who saw the Big Ten statistics, for starters. The Gophers came into the game with the second-worst shooting percentage (43 percent) and three-point percentage (29 percent) in the conference.
What made Minnesota’s sizzling shooting all the more stunning was its deplorable accuracy in a 65-57 loss in Ann Arbor on Jan. 20. The Gophers shot just 15 percent in the first half of that game. In the second half Saturday, they shot 68 percent.
“One thing is, there’s no place like home,” said Minnesota forward Quincy Lewis, who scored 19 points.
While Lewis’ explanation sounds a little trite, it’s probably as good as any. How else can one account for Harris, the point guard, launching and hitting three-pointers almost at will, finishing 5-for-6 from long range?
“He shot the ball out of his mind today,” said befuddled Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe. “It’s tough to pinpoint a reason because I don’t think they ran a lot of offense in the second half. They just kind of dribbled the ball around and shot and made it.”
Said Wolverines guard Travis Conlan: “We weren’t expecting them to come out red hot, lighting up the three-point line. We were giving them a step. When they started making threes, obviously you’ve got to adjust, but by that time they had already gotten into their rhythm.”
Harris wasn’t the only one who shocked Michigan. Junior Kevin Clark hit four three-pointers of his own. Incidentally, Clark didn’t make a two-point basket until he threw down a one-handed dunk on a fast break with just more than a minute remaining.
“It was kind of weird. Everyone was passing the torch,” Lewis said. “Someone would hand it to me, I would pass it to Kevin, and he’d pass it to someone else.”
Even Minnesota’s tallest player, 6-11 Kyle Sanden, got into the act. He hit his only three-point attempt, with just under five minutes left, giving the Gophers a 74-60 lead. Haskins raised his arms for the three-point signal as Sanden ran by him, then pumped his fist, knowing for certain that everything was going right for Minnesota.
OK, almost everything. Almost as soon as Sanden got to the other end of the court, he fouled Michigan forward Maceo Baston, dragging him to the floor. Then he was called for a technical foul immediately after that for an alleged shove on Baston, and just like that was out of the game with five fouls.
“Kyle did a great job,” Jacobson said. “He’s so young, and he gets so frustrated when somebody elbows him or gets into physical contact. Kyle’s a big kid, and there’s some guys the same size as him pushing him around. That’s part of the game. He’s still learning.”
Baston scored a career-high 27 points, and 300-pounder Robert Traylor scored 15 and grabbed 12 rebounds. The Wolverines’ expected mastery of the inside didn’t matter as much, though, because the Gophers held Michigan’s formidable perimeter game in check, keyed by Clark’s shadowing of Wolverines marksman Louis Bullock. The junior guard scored just 12 points, five after the game had been decided.
Of course, even if the Wolverines were allowed to run their offense against five mannequins, they still might have had a hard time outscoring the Gophers — on this day, anyway.
“We knew we could shoot,” Jacobson said. “There’s practices where a lot of players get streaks like that, and occasionally game to game players step up like that. It was just a matter of bringing it all together in one game.”

SATURDAY’S SUMMARY
Michigan 36 42 — 78
Gophers 34 54 — 88

MICHIGAN (17-7)
Baston 7-10 13-14 27, Ward 2-9 2-4 8, Traylor 7-8 1-4 15, Bullock 4-9 2-2 12, Conlan 4-8 1-3 12, Reid 1-9 1-2 4, Oliver 0-1 0-0 0, Asselin 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 20-29 78.
GOPHERS (10-12)
Jacobson 7-13 3-4 19, Lewis 8-14 1-1 19, Sanden 3-4 0-0 7, Clark 5-11, 3-4 17, Harris 7-9 5-6 24, Nathaniel 0-1 1-4 1, Tarver 0-1 1-2 1, Broxsie 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-54 14-21 88.
3-Point goals — Michigan 8-24 (Conlan 3-6, Ward 2-5, Bullock 2-6, Reid 1-7), Minnesota 14-20 (Harris 5-6, Clark 4-6, Lewis 2-3, Jacobson 2-4, Sanden 1-1). Fouled out — Ward, Traylor, Conlan, Lewis, Sanden. Rebounds — Michigan 31 (Traylor 12), Minnesota 33 (Jacobson 9). Assists — Michigan 14 (Bullock 6), Minnesota 18 (Clark 6). Total fouls — Michigan 21, Minnesota 21. Technical — Sanden. A — 14,714.