MILWAUKEE – Nate Mason earned first-team all-Big Ten honors this season by being a rock for the Gophers men's basketball team.

Mason is their best player, their leading scorer and the guy who needed to provide a steady performance in the NCAA Tournament for the Gophers to have a chance to advance.

The opposite happened. Mason had a nightmarish outing as the Gophers looked disjointed for all but a brief spurt late in the second half before losing 81-72 to Middle Tennessee State.

Mason went scoreless in the first half and finished with five points – 10 below his season average.

His backcourt mate Dupree McBrayer also went scoreless in the first half until making a corner three-pointer with 20 seconds left before halftime.

Collectively, the Gophers simply didn't rise to the occasion.

MTSU's matchup zone and 1-3-1 trap gave the Gophers fits all game. And Minnesota's defense was uncharacteristically leaky, which allowed MTSU to get wide-open shots.

I'll have more later in my column.