Lewis lost

Michael Dougherty

SEATTLE — With 29 seconds left in the first round game of the NCAA tournament, Gophers forward Quincy Lewis surveyed his surroundings and saw several things he probably never thought he would see.
The scoreboard showed that Lewis’ seventh-seeded team, which was ranked in the top 25 for much of the season, was about to lose to 10th seed Gonzaga 75-63. Lewis also saw four teammates who were on the floor for the final moments of his amazing Minnesota career.
Those players were Nick Sinville, Mitch Ohnstad, Terrance Simmons and Dusty Rychart — a freshman, two sophomore transfers and a redshirt-freshman walk-on.
What Lewis didn’t see was fellow seniors Miles Tarver, Kevin Clark and Jason Stanford and sophomores Antoine Broxsie and Kyle Sanden — guys with whom he has played an average of 71 games.
Tarver, Clark, Stanford and Broxsie were all declared ineligible early Thursday morning by the University for alleged academic fraud. Sanden was sidelined with an ankle injury.
University president Mark Yudof, McKinley Boston, vice president for student development and athletics and William Hogan, chairman of the Board of Regents, held a press conference Thursday at 9:30 a.m. — just four hours before gametime — to announce the suspensions.
Instead of having the 25.4 points and 14.2 rebounds per game from the five players who were relegated to the bench, Lewis was in the game with a foursome that had averaged just 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
When asked how he felt about finishing his career without the three seniors by his side, Lewis struggled to keep his composure, looking up in the air and swallowing hard before answering solemnly, “It was hard.”
Incredibly, the Gophers and coach Clem Haskins were able to piece together a cohesive unit that almost rallied from a 21-point deficit. Rychart exploded with 23 points and 17 rebounds, both career highs, and Ohnstad scored 12 points and had four assists.
But it was Lewis who looked uncomfortable with the adapted roles the team had to assume because of the suspensions. He ended the regular season with a 24.3 scoring average, but scored just eight points in his final two games — a 67-64 loss to Illinois and the 12-point loss to Gonzaga.
Lewis said he was proud of the guys who stepped up in place of those who couldn’t play, but it was clear the emotional Lewis was lost without his pals by his side.
“You prepare for a week for this game, and all of a sudden you’re slapped in the face and your starters can’t play the game,” Haskins said.
Haskins added Rychart’s play had definitely earned him a scholarship down the road, adding that Rychart will be a key member of next year’s team.
“Look at a guy like Dusty Rychart,” Haskins said. “He pays $10,000 to $15,000 just to play at the University of Minnesota. To step up tonight with those numbers was a great step for next year.”
Lewis was asked if he thought about how different things could have been if not for the suspensions.
“What if? What if? That is just a word,” Lewis said. “Tonight we didn’t win. Gonzaga played a hell of a game, shot the ball real well and played hard. That’s what NCAA basketball is all about. It was a great game and I’m glad I was part of it.”
A whole bundle of Gophers fans were happy Lewis has been a part of Minnesota basketball as well.