Gophers end regular season with 66-49 border battle loss

Minnesota went just 3-13 from behind the arc.

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

Image by Meagan Lynch

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

by Jack White

Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig scored just 11 points with three 3-point makes in the first border battle between the Gophers and Badgers.

Koenig’s five 3-pointers and 17 points put a dagger in the Gophers’ regular season the second time around.

No. 22 Wisconsin (23-8, Big Ten 12-6) snapped Minnesota’s (23-8, Big Ten 11-7) eight-game winning streak and beat the Gophers 66-49 at the Kohl Center on March 5.

The Gophers were leading by two points at halftime, but quickly unraveled.

”We played very, very poorly in the second half, just offensively no flow,” head coach Richard Pitino told the media. ”We were not confident in what we were doing.”

The Badgers hit seven more shots from beyond the arc than the Gophers. Wisconsin finished shooting 55.6 percent from 3.

The Gophers struggled to hit shots from anywhere on the court, and finished with just 32.1 percent from the field.

Center Reggie Lynch amassed five blocks on Badgers shooters, however, he scored just two points in the game.

The Gophers double-teamed Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ for much of the game. Happ, who scored 28 points the first time Wisconsin played Minnesota, scored just nine points this game.

Minnesota prevented Happ from scoring, but he worked out of double teams and found Badgers in open spots on the court, and tallied a game-high five assists.

Power forward Jordan Murphy came into the game with two consecutive double-doubles. Murphy was held to just six points and five boards against the Badgers.

Minnesota’s low block players struggled to stay out of foul trouble in the game.

Murphy, Lynch and forward Eric Curry tallied four fouls each. Murphy only played 14 minutes in the game, and none of three scored more than six points.

Guard Nate Mason led Minnesota in scoring with 17 points.

“We weren’t playing as confident as we usually play,” Mason told reporters. “We didn’t move the ball as well, and we didn’t get good looks.”

Guard Amir Coffey was close behind Mason with 13 points. Coffey led the team in assists with four.

Wisconsin struggled to hit free throws, shooting 6-16 from the charity strike.

The Gophers stopped a 10- run by Wisconsin in the second half when Mason hit a jump shot. The Badgers went on an 8-0 run immediately after the basket to take a 13-point lead in the game with 11:32 to go.

Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice was fouled by Murphy as he put up a shot from behind the arc. Trice got the basket and the free throw to complete the four-point play with 12:24 to go in the game.

Koenig took three of Wisconsin’s first six shots of the second half. Koenig hit 2-3 during that stint, to score six points and help the Badgers tie the game at 33.

Minnesota took a 29-27 lead into halftime. The Gophers 38.7 percent from the field.

McBrayer found forward Eric Curry with a no-look pass. Curry finished and was fouled in the process. The sequence was part of a Minnesota’s 8-0 run early in the first half, as the team took a 14-8 lead.

The Badgers end the Gophers regular season with a loss, but both teams earned double-byes in the Big Ten tournament this week. Minnesota goes into the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed.

“Get excited about where we sit right now because that’s in a great spot.” Pitino told reporters. “But if we played like we played tonight, it will be a quick exit.”