Gophers blow 23-point lead, lose 79-78 in OT

Minnesota jumped out to an early 37-14 lead but remains winless in Big Ten play at 0-6.

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team looked around stunned moments after the final buzzer sounded on the team’s 79-78 overtime loss Wednesday evening at Williams Arena.

Michigan State’s bench, on the other hand, stormed the court as though they had pulled off an incredible upset. And the crowd of 12,601 yelled at the officials and bemoaned another near-win by Minnesota (8-10, 0-6 Big Ten).

The Gophers saw a golden opportunity to win their first Big Ten game vanish with a questionable jump ball call in the final minute and clutch shooting by the Spartans.

“I am disappointed for our players because I think they are doing everything we have asked, and they aren’t getting rewarded with wins,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said.

During a night in which Michigan State (9-8, 4-2) would capitalize on every last chance they got, the Spartans’ Paul Davis made two free throws with six seconds remaining to tie and then win the game.

It almost didn’t go to overtime.

Michigan State’s Maurice Ager nailed a three-pointer at the second-half buzzer, sending the game into overtime and the ready-to-burst fans back down to their seats. It was Michigan State’s second three-point attempt in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

The Gophers took a three-point lead with 1:54 remaining in overtime, but Davis made a layup and was fouled. An Alan Anderson free throw gave Michigan State a one-point lead.

Minnesota responded with two free throws by Adam Boone to take its final lead at 78-77 with 35 seconds remaining.

Michigan State missed a shot with 15 seconds left, and Boone got the rebound. While one referee called a foul on the Spartans, another called a jump ball. The two conferred and ruled a jump ball, giving Michigan State one more opportunity.

Davis, who had left the game earlier in overtime after suffering a blow to the head, was fouled, and the Spartans went on to victory. The Gophers were left to wonder how a 23-point first half lead and a three-point lead with only 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation evaporated into the frigid Minneapolis evening.

“We knew they were a good team,” Gophers guard Ben Johnson said. “We knew they were going to fight back.”

Kris Humphries led Minnesota with 28 points and eight rebounds, and Boone added 16 points in the losing effort.

The team adjusted its starting lineup again, inserting Aaron Robinson at guard. Minnesota responded by opening with a 14-2 run. In addition, the Gophers built a 37-14 lead.

“Minnesota is better than their record,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “(When you are struggling) sometimes you find a way to lose instead of finding a way to win.”

In Minnesota’s past three games, the Gophers have lost after either being tied or leading in the final five minutes.

For a team that held its largest lead in Big Ten competition only to lose, this one won’t be forgotten quickly.

“Every loss is tough to swallow,” Robinson said. “This one might just be a little tougher.”