MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - “We’ve got to make shots.”
Those were the words of Gophers’ basketball coach Richard Pitino earlier this week as he spoke about his team’s chances to beat Wisconsin Wednesday night at Williams Arena. The Gophers were looking for their first season sweep of the Badgers since 2009, and for another quality win on an NCAA Tournament resume.
But they didn’t make enough shots, and get defensive stops at key times, in a 56-51 loss to Wisconsin. It was a missed opportunity, and Minnesota’s first losing streak of the season.
The Gophers let a 13-point lead at Purdue slip away on Sunday in a 73-63 road loss. Minnesota never got a lead on Wisconsin Wednesday in a dreadful shooting night for both teams.
“We just went cold. Purdue it was offensive rebounds. This one we just couldn’t hit some open looks,” Pitino said. “If you can’t hit three-point shots to space the court, it’s going to be hard for everyone.”
The Gophers shot just 1-of-13 from three-point range in the loss. They missed 12 straight from the perimeter in the second half. Their only made three-pointer came from Gabe Kalscheur to tie the game 3-3 early.
Minnesota shot 2-of-16 from the perimeter in Sunday’s loss at Purdue. In the last two games, that’s 3-of-29 from three-point range, less than 10 percent. The Gophers are last in the Big Ten in three-point shooting.
“I’m a shooter so I’ve got to keep shooting it. Everyone is going to have those off nights, so you just have to keep shooting,” Kalscheur said.
Dupree McBrayer, Amir Coffey and Isaiah Washington finished a combined 6-of-25 from the field in the loss as the Gophers shot 35 percent from the field. When the Gophers won in Madison, Coffey scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Wednesday night, he managed just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Both teams managed to defend mostly without fouling in the first half. Minnesota committed just four fouls in the opening 20 minutes, while the Badgers weren’t called for any. They were called for 13 fouls in the second half. The Williams arena crowd erupted in sarcastic joy when Wisconsin was whistled for its first foul of the game 1 minute, 10 seconds into the second half.
It was a rough and tumble game, literally, for Jordan Murphy. He finished with a double-double of 16 points and 19 rebounds, but paid the price for it. He appeared to get tripped by Brad Davison early in the first half. Murphy was taken to the floor several times in rebounding battles and even got elbowed in the face by Aleem Ford, with no whistle from the officials.
That’s life in the Big ten sometimes.
“Definitely a very physical game. Gave me all I could handle on the physicality side,” Murphy said. “I think more than anything it probably motivated me. Those were obviously very close to borderline being able to be calls or not. They were close I thought, but down the stretch you just have to keep playing through it.”
The Gophers went more than five minutes without a field goal late in regulation and did what they could to stay within reach at the free-throw line.
Wisconsin wasn’t without its own shooting struggles. The Badgers shot 10-of-41 in the paint and 34.5 percent from the field for the game, and got the win. Ethan Happ finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, but was just 2-of-8 in the first half.
D’Mitrik Trice was the difference-maker for the Badgers. Every time the Gophers made a run in the second half, Trice had the answer. His three-pointer with 1:44 left gave Wisconsin a 54-48 lead that was too much for Minnesota to overcome. He finished with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting from three-point range.
It’s a tough loss for the Gophers (16-7, 6-6), who now head to Michigan State on Saturday, which is on a three-game losing streak of its own.
“We’ve got good opportunities moving forward, some great opportunities in this building. Great opportunities on the road, we finish with a lot of tough games,” Pitino said. “There were a lot of things I thought that we did well, but we’ve got to be disciplined for 40 minutes.”