Gophers give Purdue a scare, but fall 72-65

Adam Fink

Earlier this week, Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said starting strong on the road was even more important with the team sitting alone at the bottom of the Big Ten conference.

And with the team’s struggles this season, most Gophers fans would be ecstatic if the team would be in the game until the final horn.

But while Gophers fans got an exciting finish, Minnesota didn’t get the start it needed.

Minnesota struggled in the first half at No. 23 Purdue on Wednesday night and lost 72-65 despite making the game interesting in the final minutes in West Lafayette, Ind.

Minnesota (8-8) is now 0-4 in the conference for the first time since 1988.

Facing a 15-point halftime deficit, Minnesota opened the second half with a 10-1 run behind Kris Humphries’ five points.

After watching the lead slip to just five points, Purdue (13-4, 3-1) pushed the lead back to 10 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

But the Gophers proved to be resilient.

With less than eight minutes left, the Gophers closed the deficit to 58-53. Then they tied the score at 58 two minutes later following two Moe Hargrow free throws.

But Minnesota couldn’t quite get over the hump in front of 11,254 at Mackey Arena. Purdue’s Brett Buscher scored four of his team’s next six points and the Boilermakers built a 66-60 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Monson said he was pleased with the team’s initial defense against Ohio State last Saturday. The team forced 20 turnovers and appeared to make strides on that end of the court.

For at least the second half Wednesday, the Gophers looked like their defense wasn’t a fluke. But it was the first half that did them in.

In the opening stanza, Purdue shot seven-for-11 from three-point range, exploiting Minnesota’s perimeter defense woes – allowing the most in Big Ten competition.

In addition to success from beyond the arc, Purdue shot 63 percent from the field. One reason for the high shooting percentage was the Gophers biting on pump-fakes, giving Purdue better looks at the basket.

Purdue’s David Teague, who averages 10.1 points this season, had 16 by halftime and finished with 18.

In addition, Kenneth Lowe, the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year a season ago, added 17 points – 14 in the opening half.

In shutting down Purdue’s offense, Minnesota opened the second half with renewed intensity.

Humphries once again led the Gophers with 19 points and 14 rebounds despite suffering a black eye early in the game.

But it was sophomore Stan Gaines who was the surprise star. Gaines scored a career-high 14 points.

Minnesota looks for its first conference win Saturday against Indiana. Game time from Williams Arena is 3:30 p.m.

McHale on Silver Team

Gophers great Kevin McHale was named to the Big Ten-ESPN Silver Anniversary All-Big Ten Conference Team on Tuesday night.

McHale, who played at Minnesota from 1977-80 and during that time scored 1,704 points, now plays for the NBA’s Boston Celtics. In addition, his number 44 hangs from the rafters of Williams Arena.