To say Sunday’s home game against Purdue was a must-win for the Gophers was a bit of an overstatement.
Or was it?
Tubby Smith’s team had already lost the first three games of its Big Ten schedule and was facing a two-game road trip that starts with a visit to No. 12 Indiana. So, a loss Sunday would mean 0-4 and apparently well on the way to 0-5.
A win, over a Purdue team that had just been hammered on the road at the same Penn State team Minnesota will be looking at after Indiana, would provide some hope and positive reinforcement for the Gophers.
But it didn’t happen. Unable to guard the Boilermakers outside the 3-point arc, especially in the first half, the Gophers led 2-0 and 4-3 and that was it. They fell way behind, made some noise but still lost their fourth game in a row.
“I don’t know that I’ve coached against a team that was any hotter than Purdue was today, going 10-for-12 (from 3-point range) in the first half,” said Smith. “I thought there were times when we were near them and then D.J. Byrd, Ryne Smith and Robby Hummel just lit us up.
“I think that’s been hurting us all year long but especially in the last few minutes in the first half … but we battled back and got it back to a respectable area and then we can’t finish around the basket.”
The loss came despite the second straight double-double by forward Rodney Williams, who followed 11 points and 12 rebounds against Iowa with career highs of 19 points and 14 boards Sunday.
So, Minnesota has lost four games in a row, all in the conference, as it heads for Indiana.
Not a great situation for a team that has lost its way with All-American Trevor Mbakwe for the season and is trying to learn how to win again.
NCAAB Team Report – Minnesota – NOTES, QUOTES
–The Minneapolis Tribune did an update on three players who left the Minnesota program who could be helping the Gophers if they were still around, especially after the loss of Trevor Mkabwe for the season.
The players are guards Justin Cobbs and Devon Joseph and forward Royce White.
Cobbs, who left after his freshman year and transferred to California, was averaging 12.4 points, 4.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game.
Joseph played three years for the Gophers and is now at Oregon. He became eligible last month and scored 30 points in a game last Thursday. He was averaging 13.4 points, 3.3 assists and three rebounds per game.
White had personal troubles at Minnesota and left for a second chance at Iowa State. He was averaging 13.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game for the Cyclones.
–The Gophers, who have led the Big Ten in blocked shots for each of the last three seasons, were again ahead in the conference. They had 90 coming into Sunday’s game and had seven more against Purdue and are averaging 5.7 blocks per game. Rodney Williams leads the team with 25.
–Minnesota shot just 66 percent from the foul line last year, but is at 70.1 so far this season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 — The number of free throws attempted by Minnesota in losing its first two games of the Big Ten season. The Gophers were 6-for-8 in the loss at Michigan, 6-for-10 at home against Iowa. They attempted 19 foul shots Jan. 8 against Purdue, making 13, but it didn’t help them turn the outcome around.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “A loss is a loss, it doesn’t matter how much you lose by. We have a lot of basketball to still play. We need to stay positive.” — F Rodney Williams after Sunday’s loss to Purdue.
NCAAB Team Report – Minnesota – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK’S GAMES:
–at Indiana, Jan. 12
KEY MATCHUPS: If you saw Minnesota home loss to Purdue on Jan. 8, you saw how much trouble the Gophers had trying to stop the 3-point shot, as Purdue hit 10 of them, all in the first half. Things got better after that, but theGophers now have to go to Indiana, where the 15-1 Hoosiers are leading the Big Ten in scoring and, yes, 3-point field goal percentage.
–vs. Penn State, Jan. 15
KEY MATCHUPS: Minnesota gets a team playing for new coach Patrick Chambers that is just 9-8, 1-3 in the conference. But the league win was a 20-point drubbing of the Purdue team that handled the Gophers on the road Sunday.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman guard Joe Coleman made his first college start in the Jan. 8 loss to Purdue. He scored 14 points, but was just 4-for-13 from the field. “No nerves on starting,” he said. “I’ve been through pressure before. I knew I had to be aggressive like Coach wanted.”
Asked about losing four games in a row after a successful high school career, Coleman said, “You just have to learn from this. In Hopkins (High School) we went through one losing streak for two games.”
–F Rodney Williams has had two straight double-doubles. He had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Iowa and then had career highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Purdue.
–C Ralph Sampson III played only 13 minutes in the Jan. 8 loss to Purdue, playing sparingly in the second half. “It was just the speed,” said coach Tubby Smith. “When they go with the small lineup like they did and us trying to get back into it, it’s hard for us to play our big guys in that situation … That’s why we tried to go with Andre Ingram because he’s quicker than Elliott (Eliason) and Ralph, but when you’re behind like that and trying to press and trap and rotate, it’s just hard for Ralph to play in that type of game.”
–Sampson scored two points in the game as he continues marching toward becoming the fifth Gopher with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocks: Kevin McHale, Randy Breuer, Mychal Thompson and Michael Bauer the others. Sampson, who made his 100th start against Purdue, already has the rebounds and blocks and need 82 points to complete his hat trick.
–G Chip Armelin came off the bench and made his first five shots before missing, the miss a slam dunk on a rebound.