Gophers torn apart by two Wolverines

Head coach Tubby Smith said his team needs to overachieve to be a winner.

Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson (34) and sophomore center Ralph Sampson III fight for the loose ball against Michigan guard Stu Douglass (1) during the first half of Minnesotas 71-63 loss at Williams Arena on Thursday night.

Jules Ameel

Gophers senior forward Damian Johnson (34) and sophomore center Ralph Sampson III fight for the loose ball against Michigan guard Stu Douglass (1) during the first half of Minnesota’s 71-63 loss at Williams Arena on Thursday night.

by Marco LaNave

It was all in place for the Gophers menâÄôs basketball team. Coming off a potentially momentum-building, last-second road win to begin the most favorable part of its schedule, Minnesota just needed a solid home victory to keep rolling. But instead, two stars on a struggling team shredded the Gophers at Williams Arena on Thursday night. Michigan (12-12, 5-7 Big Ten) had lost five of its last six games, but forward DeShawn Sims scored 27 points, and guard Manny Harris added 20 points and seven assists in the WolverinesâÄô 71-63 triumph over the Gophers (14-9, 5-6). âÄúWeâÄôre definitely getting back to the drawing board after this one,âÄù junior forward Paul Carter said. MinnesotaâÄôs defense continued its recent slide, allowing the Wolverines to shoot 68 percent in the second half, including 11-of-14 on shots in the paint. Sims scored 21 points in the second half and had separate stretches in which he scored eight and six straight points for the Wolverines. He scored six baskets on assists from Harris. âÄúWhen youâÄôve got a guy that physicalâĦ[who] can position himself, [Harris] knows to just drop it off to him,âÄù Smith said. âÄúObviously, [Sims] feels pretty confident that we couldnâÄôt stop him.âÄù The same play âÄî Harris finding Sims for a layup âÄî worked five times in the second half and probably would have all night if the game hadnâÄôt ended at the final buzzer. âÄúI think a lot of guys are just kind of playing out there, zoned out, and I think weâÄôve just got to really mentally stay with it,âÄù junior guard Blake Hoffarber said. âÄúWeâÄôve just got to get focused again.âÄù Hoffarber scored 11 points, including three 3-point shots in the second half to try to rally Minnesota. But Michigan made 7-of-14 3-point field goals in the game, becoming the sixth-straight Minnesota opponent to make at least that number. The Wolverines also had 13 assists while committing just two turnovers against a worn-down Minnesota defense in the second half. The Gophers only lead after the opening minutes came when senior forward Damian Johnson, who scored 10 points, made a short shot off of an assist from Carter, who scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. That made it 26-25 with 50 seconds to play before the half. Harris reclaimed the lead for Michigan by making a pair of free throws just before halftime. Hoffarber made a 3-pointer to tie it 31-31 with 17:10 to play, but Michigan went on a 26-15 run with 10 points from Sims over the next 11:33. The Gophers lost a chance to jump-start a late-season run, but NCAA tournament chances donâÄôt seem to cross the mind of head coach Tubby Smith, who said after the game that his team has been lacking in clutch situations. âÄúWe really havenâÄôt stepped up in the big games in [the last] two years,âÄù Smith said. âÄúThatâÄôs a real concern.âÄù Smith said he believes his team is capable of winning big games, but there are other ways to try doing it, too. âÄúThatâÄôs why you go out and recruit better players, and hopefully weâÄôll get that in the future,âÄù he said. The Gophers need to overachieve to cross the fine line between great and average teams, Smith said. âÄúWhen you donâÄôt have the overwhelming talent, you better be doing everything right,âÄù he said. âÄúYou better be doing the extraordinary things, and weâÄôre not doing them.âÄù The players need to be more disciplined, Smith said, and they need to go after loose balls, take charges and play defense better than they did on Thursday night. âÄúYouâÄôve got to have some guts and do that; if you donâÄôtâĦyouâÄôre going to be mediocre,âÄù Smith said.