Gophers can't connect, lose another big lead

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 29, 2012 - 7:51 AM

Minnesota once again failed to protect a double-digit lead, done in by truly horrid shooting and the inability to play through some tough calls.

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At some point, the adjectives to describe these Gopher losses run dry. Are they baffling? Mind-numbingly frustrating? Incredibly consistent? Or just flat-out humorous?

Another game, another day, another venue brought the same tired results as the Gophers took another double-digit lead and opportunity against a strong opponent and squandered it.

The Gophers (17-13; 5-12 in the Big Ten) were done no favors by questionable officiating all night, but the team came up short on too many ensuing opportunities to complain.

At the end, it was extremely poor shooting and the failure to covert easy plays that cost the Gophers the last meaningful game of the season as they tumbled 52-45 at No. 14 Wisconsin, their sixth consecutive loss.

"Some calls didn't go our way -- we got six calls in a row against us," said freshman Andre Hollins, who had a strong, 18-point performance in the loss. "Eventually it got out of hand. ... It's definitely demoralizing. You try to fight through it, you keep saying not a lot of people win here, but we had them by 10 ... and it's just frustrating."

After the Gophers built that 10-point lead with two minutes to go in the first half, the Badgers started to creep back, and six minutes into the second half, Wisconsin tied the score at 25 on a controversial three-point play by Mike Bruesewitz. Bruesewitz was initially called for a charge on Andre Hollins, but the call was overturned and called a block.

"You're going to huddle like that and change a call, are you kidding me? It's a joke! It really is," coach Tubby Smith said.

Four minutes later, it was even again -- at 27 -- when Smith was called for a technical after arguing with officials on a foul he thought should have been whistled on a three-point attempt by Andre Hollins.

Jordan Taylor hit both free throws to snatch the Badgers first lead since 10 minutes into the first half and gave them an advantage they would keep the rest of the way.

"After you play a long 30-35 seconds of defense and at the end you get a ticky tack foul, and they go to the line, ticky tack foul and you've got to restart the whole clock again, it mounts the pressure," Ralph Sampson III said.

"Now you've got to go back down here, back to defense and do it all over again. After you do it all over again, it kind of weighs down on you."

From there, the Badgers were able to flip the score, boosting their lead to 10 on strong play by Taylor and Wisconsin's sixth three-pointer of the night.

But amazingly, the Gophers still had a chance late, shrinking the deficit to six with three minutes to play. But Minnesota responded by missing seven of its final eight shots -- two of them layups -- and clanking three of its last four free throw attempts.

"You've got to make those shots at the end of the game and when you don't ... those things really hurt you," Smith said. "It really takes the wind out of your sails because you work so hard to get the ball in the basket and we've got to capitalize."

The Gophers have one game left on the schedule --home against Nebraska-- before the Big Ten tournament that marks their last, Hail Mary shot at getting into the NCAA tournament.

"We have to use [that] game as a catapult," Sampson said, "to kind of swing us into the right mindset going into the Big Ten tournament."

  • NO. 14 WISCONSIN 52, GOPHERS 45

    Up next: 11:30 a.m. Saturday vs. Nebraska • Williams Arena • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

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