Turnovers Too Prevalent in Losses

The Gophers had success in their first time through the Big Ten, but points – and wins – have been harder to come by of late. Their recent run has been damaging to their NCAA tournament status.

It seemed absurd a month ago, but Minnesota's NCAA Tournament star might be flickering. Just a few weeks ago, the Gophers seemed like a lock to secure a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. Starting the week's play, Minnesota is no longer a lock to even make the tournament.

The Gophers still have a shiny 19-6 mark, including 7-6 in league play. But they have now lost five of eight because they can't get into their offense, putting points at a premium.

Counting a discouraging 68-63 loss at Penn State on Sunday, the Gophers have registered more turnovers than assists in four consecutive games. All that went right throughout the nonconference portion of the schedule and the first turn through the Big Ten has all fallen apart on Minnesota. The Gophers beat Penn State, for example, by 20 points on Jan. 11.

"I thought we had a pretty good ball-handling team," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "Obviously we don't."

Over the last four games — three of which were losses — the Gophers have 41 assists and 66 turnovers.

They are running out of time to get things turned around. The Gophers have five games to play, beginning Thursday at Michigan. Only two of the games are against teams with winning records in the Big Ten (Illinois and Wisconsin), but Michigan is just a game behind the Gophers in the standings and Northwestern has proven capable of beating better teams this season.

In all, the Gophers have plenty of work to do to pretty up what once was a glowing postseason resume.

NOTES

  • Seventeen is turning into an unlucky number. Minnesota has turned the ball over 17 times in three consecutive games entering the Feb. 19 meeting at Michigan.

  • The Gophers' RPI is down to 35, still high enough for the NCAA Tournament, but much lower than it was a few weeks ago. Wisconsin is right behind at No. 31.

  • Leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook's drought has extended to four games. Westbrook has totaled 18 points on 6-of-30 shooting during a slump that began with a blowout loss at Michigan State on Feb. 4.

  • It might be time to replace Lawrence Westbrook in the starting lineup with Devoe Joseph, who connected on 7 of 8 3-pointers in the loss to Penn State. Joseph had a career-high 23 points, while Westbrook failed to crack double figures for the fourth consecutive game. On a team struggling to score, a switch could give Westbrook a chance to catch his breath.

  • C Jon Williams has been slowed by a strained calf. He dressed, but did not play against Penn State after re-injuring the calf recently.

  • Damian Johnson has struggled with foul trouble recently. Johnson has 17 points and 13 fouls over his last three games. He has five points and nine fouls in the last two.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Lawrence Westbrook, G Al Nolen, F Damian Johnson, F Ralph Sampson III, C Colton Iverson. Key Subs — G Blake Hoffarber, F Paul Carter, F Jamal Abu-Shamala, G/F Travis Busch, G Devoe Joseph, G Devron Bostick.

    GAME REVIEW:
    Ohio State 64, Minnesota 58
    Minnesota 62, Indiana 54
    Penn State 68, Minnesota 63

    GAME PREVIEW:
    at Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 19
    vs. Northwestern, Sunday, Feb. 22
    at Illinois, Wednesday, Feb. 26


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