Gophers fall flat in second half, suffer first loss

BOSTON — Boston College forward Nik Popovic wandered back on the court after the game, unable to find the postgame radio interview that was expecting him.

It’s not often the BC backup big man is called upon for such duties.

Popovic scored all 18 of his points in the second half and Wynston Tabbs added 17 points on Monday night to lead Boston College to a 68-56 victory over Minnesota and send the Golden Gophers to their first loss of the season.

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It was the first time in two seasons that Popovic was the team’s leading scorer, and the first time in his career he had the most points in the game.

“I thought he was patient in the post. Took his time,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “I thought he played a solid game around the basket. When he’s patient, he’s a good player.”

Ky Bowman had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Steffon Mitchell added 13 rebounds as the Eagles (5-1) held Minnesota without a basket for 8:05 early in the second half to open a double-digit lead. BC snapped a three-game losing streak in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and improved to 7-4 in the conference matchup overall.

It was the first-ever game between the schools, and it marked the return of Minnesota coach Richard Pitino to the city where his father failed so spectacularly as coach of the Celtics.

Jordan Murphy scored 16 with 11 rebounds for the Gophers (5-1), who fell to 9-11 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. But he fouled out with 5:33 remaining when he was called for charging into Popovic.

“It hurts you, him being in foul trouble,” Pitino said. “He’s your best player, one of them.”

Bowman, a first-team preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, shot just 3 for 13 from the field and missed all three shots he took in the second half. But Popovic was among those helping to make up for Bowman’s off night, making all nine field goal attempts that he took in the game.

“We definitely had to step up defensively and offensively,” Tabbs said. “We just keep him in the game, he’s going to make plays for us.”

After taking a one-point lead into the half, BC fell behind 35-33 before scoring six straight points and 18 of the next 23.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: After trekking cross-country following a three-game tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Gophers return home for a chance to regroup against Oklahoma State. “I could make every excuse until I’m blue in the face, but none of it really matters,” Pitino said.

Boston College: Bounced back after a loss to IUPUI with three straight wins. Popovic blamed himself for the Nov. 14 loss, in which he went 1 for 5 from the field, 2 for 8 from the line and fouled out.

UP NEXT

Minnesota: Plays Oklahoma State at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday night.

Boston College: Hosts Sacred Heart on Thursday night.