Gophers men’s basketball finishes winless on road after Penn State disaster

The only thing the Gophers have been consistent with this year is their inability to hit threes, rebounding troubles and winning on the road. All of those were evident against Penn State.

Guard+Marcus+Carr+shoots+through+the+opponents+at+Williams+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+28.

Nur B. Adam

Guard Marcus Carr shoots through the opponents at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

AJ Condon

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team had one last opportunity to get a win on the road when it visited Penn State on senior night. That hope quickly fell away and the Gophers got one step closer to their offseason. Minnesota fell for the sixth straight time and is down to .500 for the first time this season after an 84-65 loss.

The game got off to an uncharacteristic start for Minnesota after redshirt junior Marcus Carr drilled a three on the team’s first possession. That was just one of two leads Minnesota had all game as its deficit quickly began to increase. After that first make, the Gophers missed their next eight field goals over the next six minutes.

The Gophers also ran into trouble rebounding the ball, and the losses of junior Liam Robbins, who missed his third straight game, and junior Gabe Kalschuer were very evident. Penn State went into the break with a 25-15 edge on the glass, including 9-4 on the offensive side.

“The rebounding really hurt us. We’re struggling on the perimeter with blockouts; we really miss Gabe there, he was very physical at it,” Gophers’ head coach Richard Pitino said.

Sophomore Tre’ Williams brought a quick spark for the Gophers and scored seven straight points on back-to-back fastbreak layups and a three-pointer that got the game within one. After that, it was all Penn State to finish off the half. With just over three minutes remaining, Penn State went on a 16-2 run while hitting its last nine shots.

It was about the absolute worst ending to the first half for Minnesota, who saw itself down 18 at the break. After Penn State missed a free throw with just over three seconds left, Carr tried to go behind the back and turned the ball over right into junior Myles Dread’s hands. At the buzzer, Dread drilled a three and sent the Gophers to the locker room with little energy.

“A three like that, obviously it hurts a lot and it changes the momentum, especially going into the second half. But we just got to keep going,” sophomore Isaiah Ihnen said.

Minnesota didn’t change much up from its normal game and shot 30% from deep on 3-of-10 shooting in the first half. From the field, the Gophers made just nine shots on 28 attempts, which included an 0-of-7 half from freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr. Carr didn’t have the best half either, and shot just 2-of-6 from the field, but accounted for one of the made threes.

The shooting got a little better, but the reason for a second-half comeback was in large part from Carr’s ability to get to the free-throw line. After a nine-point first half, while shooting 4-of-4 from the line, Carr went 9-of-11 from the charity stripe in the second half to help get the lead down to 11. Carr was able to finish with a game-high 22 points but shot just 4-of-13 from the field.

That was the closest the game got, as the Gophers dropped another road game by double digits.

Ihnen had a solid game himself as he tied his career-high of 12 points set early this season against Maryland. He scored seven first-half points on 2-of-3 shooting, including a three, but ran into some trouble in the second half. He shot just 1-of-5 with another three.

Ihnen was a perfect 4-of-4 from the line to go along with 10 boards for his second career double-double. Williams was also on the career-high wave, as he put up 17 surpassing his previous high of 11.

“You can’t lose confidence in yourself; you put a lot of work in, plus I knew I had to be one of the guys to step up. Last two games, I haven’t really been stepping up, so I was just dialed in on trying to help us get a win. But effort was short, but confidence is never up for question,” Williams said.

The Gophers finished the game shooting just 35.6% from the field and 27.8% from deep. It isn’t easy to win a game shooting like that, but it also doesn’t help when Penn State shoots 45.7% from the field and 40% from deep. On top of that, Minnesota got blown out on the glass where the Nittany Lions had a 48-33 edge, including a 17-9 advantage on the offensive boards.

“They just had more urgency, they weren’t necessarily that much taller than us, they played a very small lineup. But they crashed through them hard; we got to do a better job boxing out, that’s the biggest thing, then grabbing the ball,” Ihnen said.

Minnesota’s season is slowly coming to a close as it finishes up its regular season on Mar. 6 when it hosts Rutgers for senior night. The Gophers are banged up all over the place, but Pitino is hopeful they can get healthy before their final regular-season game and the Big Ten tournament.

“They’re still battling, they’re still coachable. Hopefully a couple more days maybe Brandon [Johnson] can heal a little bit, maybe Both [Gach] can feel a little bit better, who knows, maybe Liam can come back. But those are significant injuries, they’re giving us what they got,” Pitino said.