Gophers get first Big Ten win with 81-78 victory

Minnesota finally got that elusive Big Ten win as it snapped an eight-game losing streak with an 81-78 victory over Michigan at home. The Golden Gophers trailed by 11 points at halftime, but went ahead 73-65 with 4:26 left in the game. However, they had to withstand a late Wolverines rally to move to 9-13 overall and 1-9 in Big Ten play.

Minnesota jumped out to an early 7-2 lead and went up 18-13 on a fast break lay-up by Ben Johnson with 10:46 left. Michigan took a 24-21 edge on a Daniel Horton three-pointer at the 7:30 mark, but Boone countered with a three on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 24-24. After two Michael Bauer free throws, the Wolverines went on a 14-0 run over the next three minutes to lead 38-26. Michigan increased its lead to 13, but the Gophers trimmed the deficit to 45-34 at the break. The Gophers were hurt by poor free throw shooting in the first half, making only nine of 17 (52.9%). Michigan had 13 first-half turnovers and Minnesota had 12 miscues.


The Gophers got back into the game with a 14-6 run to close the lead to 51-48. Michigan built the margin back to seven at 57-50, but the Gophers made four straight three-pointers, including two by Boone to take a 62-61 lead with 8:02 remaining.


With the score tied at 63-63 with 7:30 left in the game, Minnesota scored eight straight points to take a 73-65 edge with 4:26 remaining. Ben Johnson's three-pointer extended the lead to a game-high 10 points with four minutes left. The Wolverines rallied down the stretch with two straight baskets by Daniel Horton to pull within 78-75 with 1:29 to go.


Courtney Sims made a free throw to make it 78-76, but Aaron Robinson made two clutch free throws on the other end to put the Gophers back up by four. Sims was forced to foul Kris Humphries after the Wolverines failed to score and the freshman made one of two at the line to put Minnesota up 81-76 with 24 seconds left. Sims got an uncontested dunk with 12 seconds left to pull Michigan within three and Daniel Horton fouled Adam Boone with 7.6 seconds left. Boone missed both free throws and Dion Harris' fall-away three at the buzzer hit the front end of the rim and bounced off.


Minnesota was led by Humphries, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Humphries entered the game making 78.6% from the line, but was just five of 12 in the contest. The Gophers also got a career night from Jeff Hagen, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Hagen, who graced the cover of the game program, had his first ever double-double. Hagen recently stopped wearing a leg brace and seemed more mobile as he made seven of 10 shots and blocked two Michigan shots.


Ben Johnson scored 20 points as he was three of five from three-point range. Backcourt mate Boone added 11 points as he was also three of five from beyond the arc. Boone came off the bench for the first time this season. The Gophers shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range.


Michigan was led by Lester Abram and Horton with 15 points apiece. Bernard Robinson Jr. scored 14 points before fouling out with five minutes left in the game.


Minnesota heads to East Lansing, Mich., for a rematch with Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans defeated Minnesota 79-78 in overtime on Jan. 28 after blowing a 25-point first half lead.


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