Last-minute loss leaves men’s hoops eager to rebound

by Jabari Ritchie

Following what might have been his team’s longest game film session of the season, Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson approached the stands and apologized to a group of Gophers alumni who were at Williams Arena to watch Thursday’s practice.

The delay was understandable. As Monson told the alumni, “We had a lot of things to clean up after that last game.”

After being surprised in the last few minutes of Tuesday’s 85-79 loss at 25th-ranked Wake Forest, Minnesota (3-1) has a lot to shake off before hosting Texas Pan-American on Saturday. The Gophers led the Demon Deacons by nine points late in the game and surrendered the lead with a minute remaining.

“We talked after we watched (the film) and I think they understand that we need to play better and we can’t measure ourselves on moral victories,” Monson said. “I told them I’m tired of people telling us we played good the other night. We didn’t play as good as we needed to play.”

It would have been Minnesota’s first win over a ranked team since January of last season.

“Guys are still hurting from that game, but we’ve got to move on,” junior guard Kevin Burleson said. “It’s a long season and the young guys have to keep their heads up. I’m trying to forget about it now.”

After losing in its first test of the year, Minnesota hopes to get back on track against the Broncs (4-0).

“We just want to work out some kinks, get our offense fixed, get everybody on the same page again, and get our minds focused,” said senior forward Dusty Rychart, who led the team with 22 points and 13 rebounds on Tuesday.

Against Wake Forest, Minnesota was out-rebounded 45-41 and gave up 16 fast-break points.

The Gophers’ guards also struggled with shot selection. Burleson shot just 4 of 16 from the field and Travarus Bennett made four of nine attempts. The two starting guards made three of 11 attempts from three-point range.

“Four of 16 is something I don’t ever want to do and I think 16 shots is a little too much for a point guard,” said Burleson, who has 22 points and a 24 percent field goal percentage through four games.

“For some reason, our offense wasn’t going well and I tried to bring a little more scoring to the game. Although I didn’t shoot well – and I’m very angry and disappointed in myself about that – I tried to create opportunities for myself and others.”

Saturday’s game is an opportunity for Burleson and the Gophers to put Tuesday’s struggles behind them.

“A loss like that took a lot of energy out of everyone,” Rychart said. “It’s very discouraging when you could have won a game and you didn’t. We’ve just got to take this next game and use it as a stepping stone.”