Gophers’ road woes continue

by Murali Balaji

ANN ARBOR, Mich — Multiple personality disorder is an affliction that can be treated — and eventually eradicated — through therapy and rehabilitation.
That may be a blessing for Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins, who watched his enigmatic team demonstrate its two-faced play in a 75-65 loss to Michigan.
At Williams Arena, Minnesota (14-6 overall, 5-5 in the Big Ten) is a basketball team that blends style with power and finesse, while controlling nearly every aspect of the game.
However, the Gophers who showed up Sunday at Crisler Arena were the ones who haven’t yet won on the road in Big Ten play — a team whose confidence seems to break down whenever an opponent finds a groove and works the home crowd into a fervor.
“We didn’t play as well as we were capable of playing,” Haskins said after the game. “You’ve got to credit Michigan for playing great defense and forcing us to take shots we didn’t want to take.”
There were times during Sunday’s game when the Wolverines (10-14, 4-7) looked like a team of showmen, executing alley-oops and esthetically-pleasing fast breaks with ease and êlan. Michigan looked nothing like the team that couldn’t buy a bucket in its loss at Williams Arena two weeks ago.
In fact, it was the Gophers who were unable to get their shots against a Wolverines squad that harassed and pressured them into only 39 percent shooting from the floor. With forward Quincy Lewis unable to break Michigan’s constant press and guard Kevin Clark plagued by foul trouble, Minnesota was hard-pressed to keep up with the Wolverines.
“We made it really tough for Quincy to get his points,” Michigan guard Louis Bullock said. “We did a great job of guarding Kevin, and we made shots more difficult for Minnesota to take.”
The Gophers opened the game with a 10-0 run, with Clark and Lewis nailing three-pointers to open the scoring. Minnesota’s early advantage, however, unraveled as Bullock and guard Robbie Reed rediscovered their shooting touches.
Bullock, who had 12 points in the first half, broke down the Gophers defense with an exhaustive array of baseline and penetration moves that opened up the perimeter for Reed.
Michigan soon had the Gophers reeling and took control of the game, forcing Minnesota to throw up errant shots.
“They did a superb job of taking us out of some things we wanted to do on offense,” Haskins said. “I think they came out really strong and ready to play.”
A late surge in the closing minutes of the half gave Michigan a decisive 35-24 lead heading into the intermission. Things got even uglier for Minnesota in the second half.
With Bullock directing the tempo of the Wolverines’ half-court game, Reed and forward Josh Asselin provided the Wolverines with a deadly outside-inside combination that allowed Michigan to pull away.
Asselin’s back-to-back alley-oop jams with nine minutes to play gave the Wolverines a 55-34 advantage, and an apparent stranglehold on the game.
“The second alley-oop was more open than the first, which is kind of surprising,” Reed said. “We just concentrated on slowing down our offense and making sure that the big man would freeze and look to the outside before he started boxing down low.
“Josh made eye contact with me on both trips down the court, so I knew he was ready for the lob.”
But Minnesota wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. Lewis — who struggled to find good shots all game long — and guard Terrance Simmons ignited a late run that pulled the Gophers to within seven points with less than four minutes to play.
However, jumpers by Reed and Bullock, along with a pair of free throws by forward Leon Jones, put the finishing touches on the Michigan victory. By upsetting Minnesota, the Wolverines added to their list of home wins over ranked teams, including Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Simmons appeared confident and poised at the point guard position, finishing with nine points — the most he’s scored since a 10-point effort in the season opener — and three assists.
“We had a young man grow up today in Terrance Simmons,” Haskins said. “That’s a big plus for us, because he provided us with some real quality minutes.”
Lewis, who was limited to 7-of-18 shooting, finished with 23 points. But it wasn’t enough to match the stellar play of his Michigan counterparts. Bullock had a game-high 27 points and Reed added 16.
With six games remaining, including four on the road, the Gophers will try to shake the stigma of playing away from home — especially because they are one of up to eight Big Ten teams vying for an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
Haskins remained confident that Minnesota has the talent to reach the 17-win mark, which could leave them in strong position to qualify for postseason play.
“It’s gonna be a dogfight all the way,” Haskins said, “but we feel we have the talent and the confidence to get to the tournament. So I think the guys will be ready to come out and prove themselves in the final stretch.”

Minnesota 24 42 — 65
Michigan 35 40 — 75

Minnesota (14-6, 5-5)
Lewis 7-18 5-7 23, Tarver 2-4 5-7 9, Przybilla 4-5 2-4 10, Clark 2-10 0-0 6, Nathaniel 0-1 0-0 0, Sinville 0-0 0-0 0, Ohnstad 2-6 0-0 6, Simmons 4-7 0-0 9, Stanford 0-1 0-0 0, Broxsie 0-0 0-0 0, Sanden 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 22-56 12-18 65.

Michigan (10-14, 4-7)
Asselin 4-5 2-4 10, Smith 2-3 0-2 4, Vignier 3-7 4-5 10, Reid 4-10 5-6 16, Bullock 9-11 8-8 27, Jones 1-5 6-10 8, Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-41 25-35 75.
Three Pointers – Minnesota 9-24 (Lewis 4-8, Clark 2-7, Ohnstad 2-4, Simmons 1-4, Sanden 0-1) Michigan 4-10 (Reid 3-5, Bullock 1-3, Smith 0-1, Jones 0-1). Rebounding – Minnesota 30 (Lewis 7) Michigan 27 (Vignier 8). Assists – Minnesota 13 (Przybilla, Nathaniel, Simmons 3) Michigan 9 (Reid 4). Turnovers – Minnesota 11 (Simmons 3) Michigan 12 (Young 4). Blocked Shots – Minnesota 1 (Lewis 1) Michigan 5 (Asselin 4).