Gophers Finding Different Ways to Lose

To say that Minnesota was limping to the finish line of the Big Ten schedule would be understatement. Major understatement.

"We didn't show that spirit, that fight that you have to have," coach Tubby Smith said after his Gophers were handled by No. 23 Indiana Sunday in Minneapolis.

It was the fifth-straight loss and the sixth in the last seven games for the Gophers, who don't even appear to be a bubble team anymore as they have dropped off the radar (barring, of course, a run in the Big Ten tournament).

Earlier in the week, they lost, also at home, to No. 6 Michigan State, and to make matters even tougher, one of their two games in the final week of the regular season is at No. 16 Wisconsin.

Get the picture?

And they're losing games in all shapes and sizes. Against Michigan State, the led by six with 3:27 left and got hit by a 12-0 run that allowed the Spartans to avoid the upset.

"It's disappointing that we played so well for 30-plus minutes and we came out with a loss," Smith said after that one. "We needed to take care of the ball better down the stretch. We looked nervous. Michigan State got more physical and more aggressive and we just folded under pressure."

There's been a lot of that lately.

NOTES, QUOTES

Conference struggles continue for Gophers

--Home losses to No. 6 Michigan State and No. 23 Indiana left Minnesota 5-11 in the Big Ten, where the Gophers have lost 21 of the last 26 games, dating back to last season.

--Recipe for failure Sunday? How about shooting 31 percent from the floor, and making only 11 2-point field goals in the game? Or having one player score more than six points, with sophomore guard Austin Hollins scoring 14 on 4-for-8 shooting, 3-for-5 from three, and the rest of the team shooting 14-for-50?

--Injuries to point guards Julian Welch (hip) and Maverick Ahanmisi (ankle) didn't help the cause Sunday, Welch managing to play 11 minutes, Ahanmisi 10. But asked if Welch's absence was a key, coach Tubby Smith said, "It could have been, but I don't think so. We've played well in most games.

"This is one that just kind of came out of nowhere. A lot of it has to do with the discouraging part where you're running stuff to get into a place where you think you can score or get a foul, and then we don't finish around the rim. But Julian's played well. He's the guy who's been shooting the ball well and we kind of missed that in the second half."

--Indiana avenged a 77-74 Minnesota upset in Bloomington Jan. 12, after Michigan State completed a two-game sweep of the Gophers.

--Prior to Sunday's game, Smith said, "We need it bad. We need a whole lot of sparks. We need a fire. We need flames. We need a flamethrower on us at this point."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1-for-11 -- Senior center Ralph Sampson III from the floor in Sunday's loss, the worst shooting day of career in a game where he took five or more shots.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a pretty ugly display. We started out like we were ready to play, making some shots early, but then we started missing some easy shots. That's very discouraging for our guys. And then it's hard to get any type of rhythm or get into defensive sets when you're always in retreat mode by missing shots in combination with turning the ball over nine times in the first half. This is the result of it." -- Coach Tubby Smith after Sunday's loss to No. 23 Indiana.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Wisconsin, Feb. 28

--vs. Nebraska, March 3

KEY MATCHUPS: It's the second game of the season against both. On Feb. 9, the Gophers lost to the Badgers in overtime in Minneapolis, just after Minnesota went to Nebraska and won, 69-61. That victory was Minnesota's last before the current five-game losing streak.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore G Austin Hollins had a much better week than most of his teammates, but he couldn't help the Gophers win a game. Against Michigan State, he scored 17 points, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Then, against Indiana, he had 14 points, 11 in the first half, and was 3-for-5 from behind the arc. For the season, he was averaging 8.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, recording 55 assists compared to 41 turnovers. He was shooting 47.5 percent from the floor, 43.4 percent from 3-point range.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore G Austin Hollins, the only Gopher with more than six points in Sunday's loss to No. 23 Indiana, on how the Hoosiers were able to come in and avenge Minnesota's win in Bloomington Jan. 12: "I don't know. They just came ready to play. They knew they wanted to come in here and win. We beat them at their home, and they knew they wanted to come in here and get revenge on us."

--Junior G Julian Welch vowed to "play through" the pain of a minor hip pointer Sunday, but managed only 11 minutes in the loss. Welch was hoping his team would repeat the earlier win against Indiana, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "When we played them the first time, our backs were against a wall, and that's how it is now. We're definitely looking to get a W under our belts. It's do or die time now."

--Junior F Rodney Williams has cooled off since scoring a career-high 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Feb. 14 loss to Ohio State. In the past three games, he has averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest.


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