BOSTON – Of all the teams to make a statement that the Big Ten should be considered one of the best conferences in college basketball so far, Minnesota was flying under the radar despite going undefeated.
Seven Big Ten teams were ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll on Monday, but the Gophers weren’t one of them even after winning the Vancouver Showcase title before Thanksgiving.
In what was the start to an important week of a potential turnaround season, the Gophers came up flat offensively and failed their first official road test of the year with a 68-56 loss Monday night at Boston College.
“You can make every excuse until you’re blue in the face, but none of them really matter,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “I’ve kind of learned that nobody cares about excuses.”
Jordan Murphy recorded his fifth double-double this season and 50th of his career with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but he fouled out with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left in what was an ugly first loss of the season for the Gophers (5-1).
What went overlooked during Minnesota’s 5-0 start was how the offense had been struggling mightily against zone defenses, including going 38 percent from the field in the three victories in Vancouver.
The Gophers shot a season-low 29.2 percent from the field against BC, including 23.5 percent in the second half. They shot 5-for-30 from three-point range.
Going scoreless for more than eight minutes early in the second half was the turning point in the game.
“Definitely got to stick with it with practice and getting into the gym extra time,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing we have to panic for. It’ll just come with confidence and sticking with the game plan.”
The Eagles (5-1) took advantage when Murphy picked up back-to-back fouls early in the second half, including his fourth with his team down 46-39 with 12:27 to play. After Murphy fouled out, Jordan Chatman’s three-pointer near the four-minute mark capped a 24-10 run and gave BC its biggest lead at 63-47.
Nik Popovic led Boston College with 18 points, and Wynston Tabbs had 17. Former Shakopee star Steffon Mitchell led the Eagles with 13 rebounds.
Dupree McBrayer was scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting from the field — all three-point attempts. McBrayer is 3-for-25 from three-point range since hitting five threes in the Nov. 6 season opener vs. Omaha. But Pitino said his senior captain has a lot on his mind. The New York native spent time away from the team before the season to be with his ailing mother back home.
McBrayer wasn’t the only one not hitting shots. Freshmen starters Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur were a combined 6-for-17 from the field.
“There were a lot of guys who missed a lot of shots,” Pitino said. “So we’ve got to get their confidence going. We’ll see if we’re doing something schematically. If we need to fix it, we’ll fix it.”
Minnesota’s leading scorer, Amir Coffey, limped off because of a left leg injury in the second half. Coffey, who missed 14 games last season because of a shoulder injury, did return to the game, but finished with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting. He said he should be fine and will get treatment on his leg in the Twin Cities.
Kalscheur had 12 points, but he was scoreless from the field in the second half.