Ice cold shooting plagues Gophers in 59-51 loss at Illinois

Marcus Carr #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers looks on while playing the Michigan State Spartans at the Breslin Center on January 9, 2020 in East Lansing, Michigan. ((Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team had another cold shooting night in a 59-51 loss at Illinois to drop to 5-6 in the Big Ten.

The Gophers made just 16 shots from the field last Sunday in a 70-52 loss to Michigan State. They didn’t fare much better Thursday night, shooting just 19-of-60 (31.7 percent) from the field, including only 3-of-19 from three-point range. Earlier this week, Richard Pitino called Minnesota’s three-point shooting against Michigan State “abysmal.”

It’s the second straight game the Gophers have shot less than 20 percent from the perimeter.

Daniel Oturu led Minnesota with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and grabbed eight rebounds.

Gabe Kalscheur talked earlier in the week about “throwing it in the trash” when it comes to forgetting about missing shots. He had been 7-of-20 from the perimeter in the last three games. But Thursday night, he finished just 2-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-5 from the perimeter, for just six points.

Kalscheur, Marcus Carr and Tre Williams finished a combined 7-of-32 (21.8 percent) for just 18 points. The Gophers were without guard Payton Willis, who reportedly missed Thursday's game with a shoulder injury suffered this week in practice. He missed time earlier this season with an ankle injury.

It's an especially frustrating loss for the Gophers. They held Illinois to 33 percent shooting for the game, including just 3-of-15 from the perimeter. The Fighting Illini shot 14-of-16 from the free-throw line, and won the rebounding battle 45-36. That included 13 offensive rebounds.

Andres Feliz led four Illinois players in double figures with 17 points and eight rebounds. Kofi Cockburn added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Ayo Dosunmo scored 13 points.

Despite another abysmal shooting night, the Gophers trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before Oturu drove for a score to get Minnesota within 52-51 with 1:43 to play. Illinois answered with seven straight free throws to put the game away, as the Gophers had three empty possessions. It started after Alihan Demir was called for a questionable foul, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili converted both free throws.

Illinois came away with its seventh straight win and moved into a tie for first place in the Big Ten at 8-2 with Michigan State. The Gophers drop to 5-6, have lost three of their last four and are now off until next Wednesday, when they host Wisconsin.