Seniors in the backcourt step up, but Minnesota falls short at Kohl Center

Vincent Grier scored 19 points while Adam Boone added 18 points.

by C.J. Spang

As the 2005-2006 season began, coach Dan Monson said he thought Minnesota’s men’s basketball team might have “the most experienced backcourt in America.”

With the tandem of sixth-year senior guard Adam Boone, fifth-year senior guard Maurice Hargrow and All-Big Ten senior guard Vincent Grier, the Gophers felt once again they could make some noise in the Big Ten.

But those guards never were able to develop an offensive rhythm – together at least – until Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin.

The three senior guards scored Minnesota’s first 13 points of the contest and combined for 45 of the Gophers’ 74 points.

“Those guys are all very talented offensive players,” Monson said. “They got into a good rhythm, pretty much all game.”

But it wasn’t that way to start the season.

In the season opener against North Dakota State, Grier broke a bone in his shooting hand, forcing him to sit out the next five games. He then missed a South Dakota State game for violating an unspecified team rule.

Hargrow was injured against Maryland and sat out the next three games, plus a game against Grambling for violating an unspecified team rule.

Only Boone has played every game this season, hitting big shots to lead Minnesota to victory on multiple occasions.

“I want to be the guy that takes difficult shots,” Boone said after the game against Iowa on Feb. 18. “And I’m a guy (the team) is counting on – these guys, they believe in me.”

Because of the injuries and missed games, all three guards have suited up together in 17 of 25 games this season – just one of the reasons the three never seemed to have the expected success together.

But Sunday’s game against Wisconsin was different.

As the game began, Grier – who has been prone to slow starts this season – looked unstoppable as he drove past multiple defenders for an array of floaters and lay-ins on his way to a team-high 19 points.

Hargrow scored eight points off the bench and showed off his own driving abilities as he knifed past the defense for a lay-in and Minnesota’s final points of the first half.

In the second half, after the Gophers missed four consecutive field goals, the fifth-year senior hit back-to-back jumpers for Minnesota to keep the game close.

Boone had a balanced scoring night, dropping in eight points in the first half and another 10 points in the second half.

None of his shots were bigger than his clutch three-pointer with 5:44 remaining in the second half to give the Gophers their final lead of the game.

But it wasn’t Minnesota’s lack of offense that did them in against the Badgers.

“We had enough offense to win this basketball game,” Monson said. “We just didn’t have enough defense.”