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Losing streak continues for UMN men’s basketball

Minnesota lost both of their weekday games this week against Illinois and Maryland, pushing their losing streak into the double digits.
Image by CJ Bonk
Forward Pharrel Payne blocks Iowa at the game on Sunday, Feb. 12.

Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball lost twice within 48 hours, once on Monday against Illinois and the other on Wednesday against Maryland. The two losses added to an 11-game losing streak, which is tied for the third longest among NCAA Division I programs. Their overall record fell to 7-19 and 1-15 in Big Ten contests.

The Gophers will enter a three-game stretch starting Saturday. The homestretch consists of their last away game of the season at Nebraska and a rivalry game at home against Wisconsin.

Feb. 20 vs. Illinois

Three days after their loss to Penn State, the Gophers hit the road and played against Illinois. The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 7, but after Minnesota players tested positive for COVID-19, the game was pushed nearly two weeks.

Illinois forward Matthew Mayer kicked off the first quarter with a pair of free throws. Illinois began to quickly outscore Minnesota and by the first media timeout, they were up 7 points.

Minnesota sophomore Dawson Garcia was responsible for a majority of the scoring in the first half, taking 10 shots from the field and cashing in 12 points. Tailing him was Jamison Battle with 9 points and an additional 3 assists.

The Gophers went on a brief scoring run that crept up on Illinois’ lead just before halftime. They closed the period trailing 35-29.

Noticeably, Minnesota’s backcourt was absent in the scoring department. The first half concluded with the position group not contributing any points. They eventually ended the half with 9 points but shot 20% from the field.

Battle erupted with a frenzy of shots from all across the court in the second half. He tacked on 22 points on top of his performance in the previous period, reaching a personal season-high, single-game total of 31.

Throughout the remainder of the game, Illinois held a double-digit lead for all but two minutes and three seconds of the 20-minute half. By the end, all of Illinois’ starters reached 10 or more points. Their visible improvement in the later half allowed Illinois’ to maintain control over the Gophers and finish out the game.

Minnesota fell to Illinois 78-69.

Feb. 22 vs. Maryland

The Gophers could not keep up with the efficiency of Maryland’s shot-taking ability, losing 88-70. Minnesota shot 48% from the field on 54 shots across the entirety of the match. In comparison, Maryland shot 20 percentage points higher on seven fewer shots.

Minnesota won the jump ball and after a pair of Jaden Henley layups, was up 6-2 in just over a minute of play. This stint would not last for long, as Maryland forward Julian Reese shifted the game’s momentum by successfully attacking the paint in three of Maryland’s four following possessions.

Reese shot a perfect 4-4 in the first half but came second in points. He was behind point guard Hakim Hart and forward Donta Scott, who were tied with 14. As for the Gophers, Garcia and Henley led their team in points with 15 and 14 respectively.

A majority of the offensive facilitation was through Minnesota guard Ta’Lon Cooper. He dished out 5 assists in the first half, but his performance didn’t create enough movement to keep up with Maryland’s relentless scoring.

Maryland went on a run of 15 unanswered points, a safe distance from an upset. With less than two minutes to go in the second half, Scott layed it in following Battle’s missed 3-pointer to give Maryland a 21-point lead. Henley later answered with a 3, setting the score at halftime at 47-30.

Minnesota’s struggles against Maryland’s potent offense continued well into the next half.

Battle threw up the ball from behind the arc for the first points in the second half and his first points on the day. He followed up his season-high performance with 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist.

One of the few bright spots of the night was Minnesota freshman Pharrel Payne. Payne fouled out after playing a total of 16 minutes but finished with a team-high of 17 points, 13 of which occurred during the second period.

Minnesota’s deficit against Maryland topped out at 28 points with four and a half minutes left in the game. For the remaining time, the Gophers outscored the Terrapins 11-1. It curbed the severity of the loss and closed the game out at a final score of 88-70.

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