Gophers take fourth in 76 Classic

No. 22 Minnesota beat No. 12 Butler but fell to both Portland and Texas A&M.

Marco LaNave

The Gophers celebrated Thanksgiving by defeating a higher-ranked opponent, but their cold shooting spoiled the rest of the holiday weekend. No. 22 Minnesota beat No. 12 Butler, 82-73, on Thursday night in the opening round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., but lost to Portland and Texas A&M to finish fourth in the eight-team tournament. The Gophers (4-2) shot 50 percent in the win over the Bulldogs (4-1), but struggled to shoot 33 and 39 percent in losses on Friday and Sunday, respectively. In both losses, however, Minnesota had a chance to tie or win in the final seconds. In the semifinals against Portland (5-0), the Gophers rallied from an 11-point deficit to within 59-56 when junior point guard Al Nolen Jr. made a pair of free throws with 20 seconds remaining. A Pilots turnover gave Minnesota the ball and a chance to tie it with 15 seconds to play. Nolen passed to junior guard Blake Hoffarber for a 3-point attempt, but HoffarberâÄôs shot was short and rebounded by Pilots guard T.J. Campbell, who made a pair of free throws to seal the 61-56 upset. Campbell finished with a game-high 23 points. The Gophers missed five 3-point attempts in the final 1:24 and made just three of 19 in the game. They made only 13 of 22 free throws. âÄú[It was] disappointing the way we shot the ball; I thought we were ready to play,âÄù head coach Tubby Smith said after FridayâÄôs loss. âÄúThey kept us off balance with their changing defensesâĦand we just didn’t capitalize when we had our chances.âÄù Portland, which was picked to finish second to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference preseason coachesâÄô poll, played No. 8 West Virginia for the championship late Sunday night. In the third-place game on Sunday, the Gophers made five of their first nine shots to jump out to an 11-4 lead over Texas A&M (5-1). The Aggies erased the GophersâÄô 21-15 lead by making six of seven shots âÄî including four-straight 3-point attempts âÄî during a 16-2 run late in the first half. The Gophers used an 11-2 run early in the second half to come within 42-40. The Aggies did just enough to hold the lead, but they didnâÄôt make a field goal in the final three minutes and missed nine of their final 11 free-throw attempts, including each of their last six, giving the Gophers a chance to battle back. Minnesota trailed 66-65 and had the ball with 19 seconds remaining, but junior forward Paul CarterâÄôs short jumper was blocked from the side by Aggies forward Bryan Davis and the ball went off a Gophers player with 4.1 seconds remaining as Texas A&M held on. On Thursday, the Gophers showed depth and endurance, getting 46 points from the bench and shooting 50 percent âÄî including nine of 19 from 3-point range. Senior forward Damian Johnson led the Gophers with 18 points, four assists and four steals. He averaged 13 points in the three games. Sophomore center Colton Iverson had a double-double in the first half on Thursday and finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He added 14 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday. Nolen led the team with 13 points on Friday but scored just 7 points in the other two games combined. He fouled out of each of the three games. Smith shook up the lineup on Sunday, starting Hoffarber and sophomore guard Devoe Joseph along with Johnson, Iverson and sophomore center Ralph Sampson III. Freshman forward Rodney Williams played just six minutes per game in the three losses and did not score after making a 3-point shot in the first minute of ThursdayâÄôs win. Rough weekend for the Big Ten Minnesota wasnâÄôt the only team brought down to earth over the weekend. Four of the Big TenâÄôs six ranked teams lost their first games on Friday and combined to lose six games to unranked opponents over the weekend. No. 2 Michigan State was upset by Florida, 77-74, in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J., on Friday. No. 15 Michigan lost to Marquette 79-65 in the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. No. 20 Illinois fell to Utah, 60-58, on Friday and then lost to Bradley, 72-68, on Saturday in the Las Vegas Invitational.