Holy Cross visits leaderless Gophers

Bob Wothe

Cars veered all over the Williams Arena parking lot Thursday, facing all different directions and trying to communicate who would lead the way.

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team was departing for practice at Fairview Park – a community center in north Minneapolis – because Detroit’s women’s basketball team had arrived and was warming up in preparation for its game against the Gophers women’s team.

But among the mess of cars trying to communicate who would lead, a larger theme arose: Who would guide the team as it tried to turn around its three-game losing streak?

The answer to that question will be important at 1 p.m. Saturday as Minnesota (2-3) takes on Holy Cross (3-1) at Williams Arena.

“The team’s mood is good,” coach Dan Monson said. “We don’t have that world-has-come-to-an-end kind of attitude yet.”

The Gophers have lost three straight after winning their first two games, and that losing streak was punctuated Tuesday in a loss to Florida State – the Gophers blew a 14-point lead with fewer than eight minutes left and lost by one.

Nobody was able to step up for the Gophers in crunch time as the team was outscored 21-6 after leading 63-49.

A likely candidate to carry the Gophers through tough times appears to be junior Vincent Grier, who leads the Gophers and the Big Ten in scoring with 19.8 points per game.

“Vincent gives us so much energy out there,” freshman Rico Tucker said. “He gives us absolutely everything he has every night.”

But Grier was quiet down the stretch against the Seminoles, deferring to others or being forced into off-balance shots as the shot clock wound down. And he missed the back end of a bonus situation that, ultimately, would have sent the game into overtime.

Besides Grier’s one made free throw, the only Gophers to even score in the last seven minutes were seniors Aaron Robinson (three points) and Jeff Hagen (two points).

Hagen said he realized he needs to provide more senior leadership in times such as those.

“This loss was more fear than anything in a lot of the guys,” Hagen said after the game. “Somebody needed to step up, but nobody did.”

Against the Crusaders, who had won three straight before falling to Princeton 56-53 in their last game, somebody will have to take the wheel and lead the way.

They just need to figure out who.

“They did a good job of taking Grier away as the game progressed,” Monson said of Florida State’s defense after Tuesday’s loss. “And unfortunately, we weren’t mature enough and just got too tentative.”