It's not something Gophers coach Ben Johnson is proud of on his résumé, but his experience with losing streaks as a former U player and assistant coach is helping him relate to his current team's season.

In Johnson's senior year playing for Dan Monson in 2003-04, the Gophers went on an eight-game losing streak and finished with a 3-13 Big Ten record.

Seven years ago, the Gophers suffered through a 14-game losing streak when Johnson was on Richard Pitino's staff, winning only two Big Ten games.

In both cases, the U had major turnarounds the following seasons to reach the NCAA tournament. So Johnson has tried to put into perspective his team's current seven-game losing streak, which includes a pair of 35-point losses in its past two games.

"I know exactly what they're feeling," Johnson said after Saturday's 81-46 loss against Maryland. "No one enjoys what we're going through."

The shorthanded Gophers (7-15, 1-11 Big Ten) had to postpone Tuesday's game at Illinois because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols within Minnesota's program. The makeup date is Feb. 20, so the Gophers' next scheduled game is Sunday at home vs. Iowa.

Johnson has told his players from his experience that they will grow from adversity.

"The guys have to be on the court and in class and got to hear the noise," Johnson said. "No one enjoys that, but they also need to know that there's going to be brighter days ahead."

Brighter days seem further down the road than anyone can see now, especially after the lopsided losses to Rutgers and Maryland, the largest margin of victory for both opponents against any Big Ten team since joining the league in 2014.

“It goes back to perspective. Trust me, I'm not sitting here trying to have a pity party and go woe is me. That's not the point.”
Ben Johnson

In the 128 seasons of Gophers basketball, the program had never lost consecutive games by 30 points or more until now. Injuries and inexperience have contributed to Year 2 under Johnson becoming a continuing chase at the team's history for futility.

"It's understanding that the little details matter," junior forward and co-captain Jamison Battle said. "That's something I have to do a better job as a leader, just hone in on those details. Make sure everyone understands that you see what happens in these last two games. If you don't pay attention to detail, these are the results you're going to get."

Help isn't likely on the way in the next game, either. Leading scorer and rebounder Dawson Garcia is still out indefinitely with a bone bruise injury. Freshman guard Braeden Carrington is making "big-time progress," but he was expected to miss a month with a leg injury.

That's why the Gophers played with just eight scholarship players in the past two games, including freshmen Pharrel Payne, Jaden Henley and Joshua Ola-Joseph filling big roles.

"I would challenge any program to face that and be out there killing it," Johnson said. "It goes back to perspective. Trust me, I'm not sitting here trying to have a pity party and go woe is me. That's not the point."

Johnson said current Gophers recruits and their families who are seeing firsthand the chaos unfolding in the program "understand what we're going through" with injuries and freshmen playing major minutes.

There were no major injuries when Pitino finished with a program-worst 8-23 record with Johnson was an assistant in 2015-16. But that main rotation did consist of several underclassmen, including future All-Big Ten players Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy. The Gophers had five losses by 23 points or more, but they snapped a 14-game losing streak and won their first Big Ten game with a mid-February stunner vs. No. 5 Maryland at the Barn.

One reason those Gophers became more competitive was Murphy's development as a freshman. Payne is likewise now being groomed into the team's primary inside presence.

The 6-9, 255-pound Cottage Grove native was forced into a starting role with Garcia's injury. He struggled in his first two starts, but his confidence was apparent Saturday with a team-high 14 points vs. Maryland, including 12 points in the first half. Johnson told Payne that the Gophers need him to score to be successful, but "he's such an unselfish kid."

"It's understanding how big and how strong he is," Johnson said. "We need you to be that alpha and demand it. And take a guy to the rim because you're good enough. It's developing that mindset."