Gophers drop regular season finale to Maryland 69-60

Early turnovers hindered Minnesota’s offense in the loss.

Forward Juwan Morgan swats Amir Coffeys shot from the basket during the game against Minnesota on Saturday, Feb. 16. The Gophers won 84-63.

Jack Rodgers

Forward Juwan Morgan swats Amir Coffey’s shot from the basket during the game against Minnesota on Saturday, Feb. 16. The Gophers won 84-63.

by Nick Jungheim

Coming off consecutive victories for the first time since January, Minnesota faced a difficult test to conclude the regular season. Instead of continuing the momentum from a highly-emotional victory against ranked Purdue on Tuesday, the Gophers regressed on the road.

For the second time this season, Minnesota (19-12, 9-11 Big Ten) fell to No. 24 Maryland (22-9, 13-7 Big Ten). After an 82-67 victory on Jan. 8, the Terrapins defeated the Gophers 69-60 on Friday to complete the season sweep.

“[We were] not strong enough at the basket,” head coach Richard Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “They’ve got some big guys down there. A lot of the things that we worked on — jump-stopping, being under control — we really didn’t do a very good job of.”

It became evident early on that Minnesota would struggle to replicate the urgency and passion it played with during the senior night victory. The offense in particular failed to find its rhythm. In the first half, the Gophers turned the ball over eight times while scoring only seven field goals on 26 attempts.

The lone bright-spot for the Gophers in the first half was 3-point shooting, which accounted for five of their seven field goals before halftime. However, the combination of only four points in the paint and 12 points surrendered off turnovers led to a 34-22 deficit for Minnesota at the intermission.  

After halftime, the same trends that plagued Minnesota in the first half continued to set them further behind. An 10-2 Maryland run in the first seven minutes of the second half pushed the Terrapins’ lead to 22 points. A late push brought the Gophers back to within single-digits with under a minute remaining, but the game’s outcome was never in question.

Maryland’s trio of junior Anthony Cowan Jr., sophomore Bruno Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith powered the Terrapins past Minnesota. Cowan, who scored a season-high 27 points against the Gophers on Jan. 8, recorded 21 on Friday.

Fernando (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Smith (19 points, 11 rebounds) both posted double-doubles. They also combined for seven of Maryland’s 11 offensive rebounds.  

“They’re big, they’re talented,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “They’ve got a great front court. They’re very physical at the basket, Bruno [Fernando] and Jalen Smith. They’re a very talented team.”

After consecutive 30-point games, Minnesota’s leading scorer, junior Amir Coffey, got off to a slow start, but found his groove in the final 10 minutes. Coffey recorded 23 points to lead all scorers.

Senior Jordan Murphy put up his 21st double-double of the season in his final regular season game, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. With his final point, he surpassed former teammate Nate Mason for fifth on the program’s all time scoring list.

In the coming days, Minnesota will have to wait and watch the other conference games to find out what their seed will be in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Though their opponent is not yet determined, the Gophers will have their next game on Thursday, March 14. 

“We’re going to take a couple of days off and regroup,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “We didn’t play great today, so we need some rest and get back in the gym on Monday.”