Gophers fall behind early, can’t match No. 7 Michigan
MINNEAPOLIS — Jordan Poole scored 22 points to lead a long-range shooting spree by seventh-ranked Michigan and the Wolverines beat Minnesota 69-60 on Thursday to set up a weekend matchup against rival Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten.
Jon Teske had 17 points and seven rebounds and Ignas Brazdeikis added 10 points for the Wolverines (24-3, 13-3). They are tied with the Spartans at the top of the conference, with Purdue a half-game behind.
Michigan went 13 for 28 from behind the 3-point line, matching a season best for makes in Big Ten play, with Poole going 5 for 10 and Teske 3 of 6.
Jordan Murphy (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Daniel Oturu (18 points, 12 rebounds) gave the Gophers (17-10, 7-9) plenty of production in the paint, but they missed nine of 10 attempts from 3-point range. The Wolverines have won 13 of the last 14 games in the series, including nine of 10 since Richard Pitino took over as coach of the Gophers.
These well-balanced Wolverines, who had nine points and nine rebounds from Charles Matthews and 12 assists from Zavier Simpson, needed a buzzer-beating jumper by Matthews to stave off a late surge by the Gophers for a 59-57 victory at home on Jan. 22. Michigan made only 3 of 22 from behind the arc in that game.
This time, the Wolverines trailed for only 31 seconds. They used an 11-0 run over a 5:17 stretch early in the first half to take charge, and the Gophers were no match for their stifling half-court defense. Amir Coffey missed his first 10 shots from the floor for Minnesota and finished 2 for 15 for six points.
Some of Coffey’s attempts to get the Gophers going were forced off-balance heaves, but his first open look was an air-balled 3-pointer. In a sign of how poorly the night was going for the Gophers on offense and how much the Wolverines were in sync, Dupree McBrayer made a slick pass from the perimeter to the baseline for Eric Curry on a late-first-half possession. As soon as Curry brought the ball down to waist level in his advance to the basket, Isaiah Livers stuffed his layup attempt cold to preserve a 24-14 lead.
Oturu had a double-double by halftime, beating the buzzer with his putback to bring the Gophers to 28-18, but that was their lowest score of any half all season. The Wolverines built a lead as large as 21 points in the second half, sinking 3-pointer after 3-pointer whenever the Gophers were on the verge of a run.
Michigan: For all the Wolverines have done right this season, they had lost three of their previous five conference road games including at last-place Penn State on Feb. 12. So this went down as by far their best Big Ten win on the road, against eighth-place Minnesota. The moxie they exhibited in taking immediate control and not letting up in what can be one of the conference’s loudest arenas will serve them well as they head into March.
Minnesota: The Gophers followed their most complete performance of Big Ten play, a 21-point victory over Indiana on Saturday, with one of their biggest flops of the season. They’re running out of games to try to add to their list of quality wins for the NCAA Tournament committee to consider, with this perpetual perimeter-shooting problem threatening to send them to the NIT instead.
Michigan: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, with the intrastate rematch and regular-season finale set for March 9.
Minnesota: Plays at Rutgers on Sunday night, the first of three road games remaining for the Gophers.