WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. -- Minnesota most likely doesn’t have to worry about losing their NCAA tournament berth.
But after two "bad" losses in as many games to finish the regular season, they’ve certainly given the committee an argument for reconsidering.
Three days after getting tromped at Nebraska, the Gophers fell apart at Purdue, allowing the Boilermakers to celebrate their senior day by thrashing Minnesota, 89-73 at Mackey Arena.
Losing their leader, Trevor Mbakwe for the bulk of the first half, the Gophers couldn’t find anyone else to step up until late. And while they mended their shooting issues – making 39.1 percent of their shots from 3-point range – Minnesota’s defense collapsed under pressure, allowing Purdue, which got double-digit scoring from each of its five starters, to run away with it.
The Gophers showed some much-delayed fight in the second half, when they carried over success from 3-point range late in the second to come within seven. Coach Tubby Smith had Minnesota running a full-court press against the Boilermakers and inserted Maverick Ahanmisi at the point to relieve Andre Hollins, who started lighting it up from the field. With three 3-pointers from him and another from Austin Hollins, the Gophers instigated a 17-7 run to bring the score to bring the score to 51-44.
But a flurry of Minnesota turnovers combined with a lack of stops and Purdue’s inability to miss – the Boilermakers shot 54.2 percent overall – had the Gophers trailing by double digits again quickly.
It was evident from the start that Minnesota was trying to push the pace and force a tempo favorable to their style of game – putting up attempts earlier in the shot clock and making an effort to get out and run.
But with the Gophers out-shot and down by 6, Mbakwe picked up his second foul with 15 minutes left in the half, and things tumbled downhill.
The Gophers shots didn’t fall – they converted just 28.1 percent of their shots from the field in the first half – struggled with defensive breakdowns in transition and were beat up inside (with the Boilermakers taking a 24-10 advantage in the paint). Minnesota fell quickly into a 30-9 hole with Smith calling just one timeout through the entire half to stop the bleeding. Consecutive 3-pointers from Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins – his first in five games – combined with Rodney Williams heating up brought Minnesota back within 11, but the Boilermakers were quick to respond, hitting a pair of 3-pointers of their own and closing out the half, 44-27.