Men’s hoops advances to NIT Final 4

by Brett Angel

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team won its third straight game and kept its postseason run alive with a 63-58 overtime victory against Temple on Thursday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

Minnesota now advances to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament and will play Georgetown on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

St. Johns defeated Alabama-Birmingham in their NIT quarterfinal matchup Thursday and will play Texas Tech in the other semifinal.

Four players scored in double figures for the Gophers (19-12), led by sophomore forward Rick Rickert, who notched 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

It was Temple’s first loss on its home court in more than two months and the first time the Owls lost to any team that didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament since a Jan. 11 loss to Richmond.

With the Gophers up 54-53 and just 14 seconds left in regulation, Temple’s David Hawkins had a chance to give the Owls the lead, but the first of his two free throws was off the mark. Hawkins made the second and Minnesota’s Ben Johnson missed a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Johnson atoned for the miss by making all four of his attempts from the charity stripe in the extra session, while the Gophers’ defense held Temple without a point for the first four minutes of overtime.

It was the Owls’ defensive pressure, however, that kept the game close. Temple was in it until the end despite shooting a horrific 27 percent from the field in the game.

Minnesota shot 43 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle 45-40. Michael Bauer chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds for the Gophers, while Moe Hargrow and Kevin Burleson added 11 apiece.

Temple rode the hot shooting of junior Brian Polk during the first half and took a 31-26 lead into the break. Polk nailed all four of his three-point attempts in the game’s first 20 minutes and finished the game with 19 points to lead all scorers.

Minnesota scored the first five points of the game, but the Owls countered with 7-0 and 9-0 runs to take the lead.

Rickert had nine of his 13 points in the first half for the Gophers, who made just one of three free-throw attempts before halftime.

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]