Men’s basketball blows late lead at Wake Forest

by Jabari Ritchie

Midway through the first half of Tuesday night’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge game at Wake Forest, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team snatched the lead and began building a significant margin.

The Gophers, who led by as many as nine points late in the second half, appeared to be on their way to a fourth straight convincing victory. But unlike Minnesota’s early victims ñ who were all beaten by at least 18 points ñ the Demon Deacons refused to back down.

After trailing for 25 straight minutes, Wake Forest snatched the Gophers’ lead when Broderick Hicks hit a three-pointer with about a minute remaining. Minnesota (3-1) was unable to score again as the Demon Deacons (5-1) pulled away for a 85-79 victory.

Trailing 82-79 with 21 seconds remaining, Gophers guard Kevin Burleson took the ball into Wake Forest’s zone and shot a three-point attempt almost immediately.

Wake Forest forward Darius. Songaila grabbed the rebound from Burleson’s miss and was promptly fouled by Minnesota forward Dusty Rychart.

Songaila iced the victory by sinking both foul shots to put the Demon Deacons up by five. He made all 13 of his foul shots in the game.

The Gophers came out cold in their first road game and toughest test of the season. Wake Forest stormed out to an eight-point lead in the first nine minutes, taking advantage of a 9-0 run early in the half.

Rallying behind a strong performance by Rychart, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds, Minnesota took the lead with eight minutes remaining in the first.

Rychart, who had just 15 points in his last two games, became the first Gopher to reach 20 points in a game this season. He was Minnesota’s leading scorer in each of the last two seasons. Sophomore forward Michael Bauer, who led the team in scoring in each of the previous contests, had 11 points ñ nine from three-point range.

Despite being responsible for over of a quarter of the Gophers’ points, Rychart also contributed to one of Minnesota’s key problems with four personal fouls in the game. The Demon Deacons converted 24 of 28 opportunities from the free throw box.

The Gophers were also outrebounded for the first time this season, pulling down 41 boards to Wake Forest’s 45.


Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]