WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – With a little more than 14 minutes to play, Joe Coleman sank a jumper and quieted an announced crowd of 14,082 at Mackey Arena.
What had seemed like an open-and-shut game after the first 10 minutes suddenly had become a little more interesting.
Going into a full-court press, the Gophers were able to hold off Purdue long enough to claw back from a 21-point deficit Saturday to trail by only seven at 53-46 after Coleman’s jumper.
But what followed was precisely what did in the Gophers all game: shoddy individual and team defense and an inability to make critical stops.
Minnesota allowed the Boilermakers to convert three jump shots on three attempts and turn a foul into two free throws, even as the Gophers went 0-for-2 with two turnovers and two fouls.
By the time Minnesota made another shot, on an Andre Hollins layup about four minutes after Coleman’s basket, they were behind by 15 once more, 61-46. The Gophers eventually fell 89-73.
“Our defensive energy was low from the jump,” Rodney Williams said. “We were letting the guards get too much penetration, get to the bucket too easy. We practiced on that, we worked on that since the Nebraska game — it just didn’t go our way this time.”
Fixing road woes
The Gophers finished with a 1-8 record on the road in the Big Ten, after going 4-1 away from home (2-0 on the road, 2-1 on neutral floors) in nonconference play.
Asked how the team can mend that negative trend as it heads into more games away from Williams Arena during the conference tournament and (most likely) the NCAA tournament, Gophers coach Tubby Smith seemed out of ideas.
“We just keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “You can always improve, you can always change, but we’ve been working to do that a lot. It seemed like we got it changed for a while, with a good win against Indiana, a good win against Penn State, but then we revert back.”
Said Andre Hollins, shaking his head: “It’s just the time of the year when teams are supposed to be playing their best, and that’s the teams they select in the tournament. We’ve just got to pick it up — that’s it.”
Getting looks for Andre
Smith continued the experiment of taking Hollins off the ball, and it seemed to be another argument for doing that on a more regular basis. After Maverick Ahanmisi started the second half, Hollins began to heat up and play more aggressively on offense, finishing with 24 points and nine assists.
“He doesn’t have to handle the ball as much, and he’s a little freer to get looks at the basket,” Smith said. “You’re not being harassed by a guy that’s probably quicker than you in [Purdue guard] Ronnie Johnson, so that makes a difference.”