Defense traveled with the Gophers, with Virginia Tech being held scoreless at home for nearly six minutes in the first half of Monday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
The Gophers forced six turnovers early against an opponent that led the ACC and ranked third nationally in fewest turnovers per outing.
Problem is the Gophers' offense didn't hit the road with them in a 67-57 loss against the Hokies at Cassell Coliseum.
It was the second consecutive loss for the Gophers (4-3) after they couldn't overcome lengthy scoring droughts. They finished the game shooting only 37% from the field.
"These last two games we've got it to about halfway through the first half and then we have that stretch where we just let it get away," Gophers coach Ben Johnson said on the postgame radio show. "Now you're battling the rest of the game to try to recover from that stretch."
Virginia Tech (7-1) took control Monday with a 13-0 run after Johnson's team failed to get a basket for nearly five minutes in the first half. The Hokies, who led 39-27 at halftime, broke out of their early slump behind Sean Pedulla scoring 13 of his 17 points in the first half.
In last week's 71-62 SoCal Challenge championship game loss against UNLV in California, the Gophers went scoreless for four minutes after taking the lead and quickly fell behind double digits.
Ta'Lon Cooper and Pharrel Payne led the U, each with 13 points. But Dawson Garcia, who averaged 15.8 points, struggled to play through flu-like symptoms and finished with five points. Jamison Battle, who was playing his third game coming off foot surgery, was scoreless in the first half and finished with six points.
Battle and Garcia were a combined 4-for-19 shooting. They can potentially be a strong scoring tandem, but the Gophers will enter Sunday's Big Ten opener at No. 5 Purdue so far struggling to get them going together. And this is a tough stretch for them to find their rhythm, with upcoming home games vs. Michigan and Mississippi State.
"To Dawson's credit, he's got the flu and I probably played him too many minutes," Johnson told reporters after the game. "We've got to look at it and find a way to get those guys some better looks, some easier looks."
Minnesota's starters shot 12-for-38 from the field, but Payne came off the bench to match Virginia Tech's physicality. The freshman big man's second dunk of the game on an alley-oop from Cooper tied the score 22-22 with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half.
The smallest player on the floor, though, had the biggest impact to finish the opening period. The 6-1 Pedulla, who had the U among his finalists as a high school recruit, scored five consecutive points to spark a 17-2 run.
One of Pedulla's baskets was a goaltending call on what appeared to be a clean block from Payne. But Garcia also couldn't stop a crafty reverse layup from Pedulla to give the Hokies 13 points in a row and a 35-22 lead.
After the UNLV game, in which the U trailed by as much as 22 points last Wednesday, Johnson told his underclassmen-laden team not to use youth as an excuse. But the Gophers coach talked about mental and physical fatigue as reasons for lapses vs. Virginia Tech.
In the second half, Battle scored his first basket with a three-pointer to pull within 39-30, but the Gophers were outscored 24-13 from there to fall behind by 20 points.
The Gophers rank second-to-last nationally at 55% shooting on free throws (7-for-14 Monday). Opponents have also dominated them on the boards. Virginia Tech's 42-27 rebounding edge and 40 points in the paint gave them easier scoring chances. That made it even more difficult for the Gophers to stay competitive Monday after a strong defensive start.
"Is there a reoccurring theme here these last couple games? For sure," Johnson said. "We've got to be able to combine competing for longer stretches and staying dialed in for longer stretches. Not having those lulls."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.