Gophers men’s basketball drops first home game without a fight

The Gophers appeared to be half awake when the game started and failed to shoot their way back into the game.

Gophers+forward+Eric+Curry+challenges+a+defender+at+Williams+Arena+on+Thursday%2C+Dec.+10.+The+Gophers+went+on+to+defeat+the+Kansas+City+Roos+90-61.

Emily Pofahl

Gophers forward Eric Curry challenges a defender at Williams Arena on Thursday, Dec. 10. The Gophers went on to defeat the Kansas City Roos 90-61.

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

A week off and an early Saturday start was the formula for a slow start in Williams Arena for Minnesota. Coming off an upset win over Michigan a week ago, and missing their next game against Nebraska due to COVID-19, the Gophers looked out of sorts as they dropped their first home game 63-49 to Maryland.

“We definitely started the game slow, super slow, and that’s probably the slowest we ever came out to a game. We just made the mistake of thinking everything was going to come easy, and in this conference every game is going to be a challenge. Regardless of who we’re playing on any given night, every team has talent,” redshirt senior Brandon Johnson said.

The Terrapins went with four guards in their starting lineup, with all four of them 6-foot-5 and above, as well as a 6-foot-7 forward. That worked to their advantage as they were switching just about everything on defense and doubling junior Liam Robbins down low.

On offense, redshirt junior Marcus Carr and junior Gabe Kalscheur were just too small and Maryland’s guards were hitting threes over them. Defensively, Maryland’s guards were aggressive and made it nearly impossible to get to the rim. They forced Minnesota to beat them on outside shooting, which they could not do.

“We couldn’t get by them. If you’re not gonna get post touches for your fours and fives, which we certainly want to do, you better be able to penetrate. They’re not big in the front court, but they’re big in the back court, and that can be equally disruptive and that really was,” head coach Richard Pitino said on Maryland’s height.

All of that led to a slow start for a team who was undefeated at home. The Gophers saw their deficit reach 14 just under eight minutes into the game from a mixture of missed shots and shuffling feet leading to turnovers, which they had seven of in the first half. That first half start gave way for the rest of the game.

“They jumped out to a good lead, we just couldn’t make a shot. And then I thought we settled in defensively, but give Maryland credit. They were ready to go,” Pitino said. “We just could not get over the hump.”

The Gophers have relied on Carr a lot this season, and it was him who woke up first. With the whole team struggling to make a shot, Carr drilled a pair of three pointers to go along with nifty drives to the rim. He finished the first half with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Another first half standout came from freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr., who was just about the only other Gopher to contribute offensively. He came off the bench and helped spark the Gophers offense in the middle of the half. He hit a three pointer, maneuvered his way to the basket and drew fouls.

“Coming off the bench, you got to be able to provide positive [energy] and not be an energy vampire, but be an energy giver when you come off the bench. That’s what I try to do every game,” Mashburn Jr. said.

Mashburn finished the first half with nine points on 2-of-3 shooting and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. He also found himself in a similar boat on the defensive end that Carr and Kalscheur did, however, he was able to finish as the only Gopher with a positive plus-minus in the first half.

Robbins was coming off one of his best games in the maroon and gold against Michigan and scored the first points of the game for Minnesota. The quick and elusive defense of Maryland made it tough for the 7-foot junior to get the ball much down low. Even though he had about five inches on the whole defense, Maryland was shadowing him when he didn’t have the ball and doubling him once he got it.

The Gophers found themselves down nine going into halftime with a lot of work to do. However, not much seemed to change after the break.

They were able to cut the deficit to six a couple times, but they couldn’t generate enough stops on defense. When they did get stops, they tried to shoot themselves out of the hole, which has never boded well for them. They shot 5-of-23 from deep, which turned into 2-of-17 if you took out Carr. That was pretty much the story for the Gophers’ offense as a whole, without Carr, they didn’t have much.

Carr put together a nice afternoon, scoring 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting. But the other four starters combined for just 15 points on 4-of-22 shooting. That doesn’t tell the full story as Gach and Kalscheur both failed to hit a field goal on their 10 combined shots.

“We settled for too many jump shots and I think that we just have to do a better job attacking, getting downhill, that’s where we’re at our best,” Mashburn Jr. said.

The second half wasn’t all too friendly for Robbins, specifically. After picking up one foul in the first, it took just two minutes to pick up three more and send him to the bench with three points and four fouls. The Big Ten leader in blocks was still able to block three shots prior to his fourth foul. After being back subbed in, Robbins picked up his last foul which ended his day with just under five minutes remaining.

The Gophers return to the road, where they are winless, Jan. 30 to face Purdue and will look to bounce back and return to .500 in the Big Ten.