Statistics and Big Ten standings both show Gophers at the bottom of the conference heap

C.J. Spang

While a winless Big Ten season speaks for itself, the numbers truly reflect why Minnesota’s men’s basketball team is struggling this season.

The Gophers were 10th or worse in seven major Big Ten statistical categories before their game Saturday against Michigan.

Minnesota was 10th in scoring offense, last in scoring margin, last in free-throw percentage, last in field goal percentage, 10th in three-point field goal percentage, tied for last in assists per game and 10th in assist/turnover ratio.

“As I told our guys when we were 9-2 in the preseason that I was happy we were winning but we have to get better,” coach Dan Monson said. “We’re not at the level of the Big Ten teams, and I think that’s proven out here as we hit the Big Ten season.”

With exception of the Big Ten conference-opening loss to Northwestern, the Gophers have been in every conference contest so far.

And while all those categories have proved detrimental in the losses, it has been free-throw shooting that has proved most fatal.

Minnesota is last in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage, shooting a dismal 58 percent from the line against conference opponents.

And when the games were on the line, the Gophers have been even worse from the free-throw line while their opponents have been lights out.

In the game against the Badgers, Wisconsin hit four consecutive free throws in the last 16 seconds to secure the win. Against Iowa, the Gophers missed their last four free throws of the second overtime, allowing the Hawkeyes to escape with a win in the third overtime.

Even against Michigan, free-throw shooting had a hand in Minnesota’s loss.

While the game didn’t come down to last-second free throws, the fact that the Wolverines were 12-12 from the line and the Gophers were just 10-17 didn’t help.

Michigan coach Tommy Ammaker spoke after the game about how important it was for his guards to make those free throws and keep a cushioned lead.

Minnesota’s free-throw shooting reflects its offense ” virtually nonexistent.

But it’s hard to expect a team to make a contested jump shot when no one can hit a free throw.

The Gophers came into the game shooting a brutal 35.1 percent. And that number won’t improve a whole lot after their 21-55 outing against the Wolverines.

“We’re just not shooting the ball right now,” sophomore center Spencer Tollackson said. “I’m very confident that our offense is going to come.”

The offense better come quickly, because Minnesota begins what is arguably its toughest stretch of the season, with games against Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State ” three teams who combine to have five Big Ten losses ” the same as the Gophers.