Sloppy play gives Gophers fourth straight loss
By Chris Monter
Feb. 10, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS -- Illinois defeated No. 25 Minnesota 71-62 at Williams Arena Wednesday in a what many considered must-win game for both teams. However, it seemed like neither team was too excited about winning this error-filled, poor shooting contest.
Illinois improved to 16-8 and 6-5 in Big Ten play, while Minnesota lost its fourth straight game as they slipped to 16-8 overall and 5-7 in conference action.
The Golden Gophers' NCAA Tournament hopes have taken a severe beating as they are just 1-4 without senior point guard Al Nolen. The loss of their playmaker continues to hamper the team that has just eight scholarship players currently playing as Minnesota committed 16 turnovers and starting shooting guard Blake Hoffarber has been forced to move to point guard, which has affected his offensive game.
Illinois, which had lost five of their last seven games, shook up their starting lineup to get a much-needed spark. They started sophomore Brandon Paul, senior Bill Cole and freshman Meyers Leonard and benched seniors Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey and Jereme Richmond.
Tisdale had started 93 straight games and McCamey had started 89 of his last 93 contests.
Illinois led 30-29 at halftime, but the Golden Gophers scored the final eight points of the half as Illinois went scoreless for the final 2:53 of the half after opening up a nine-point lead, the biggest of the first half.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half as Illinois was just nine of 30 from the field (30 percent) and the Golden Gophers made twelve of 31 (38.7 percent).
Trevor Mbakwe led Minnesota with ten points and ten rebounds at the break. He had failed to post double figures in either points or rebounds the past two games.
McCamey led the Illini with eight points at halftime.
The Golden Gophers continued their strong play in the second half as they outscored the Illini 12-7 to jump out to a 41-37 lead. Blake Hoffarber scored on a lay-up off a back-door cut to knot the score at 51-51, but Mike Davis countered with a jumper to take the lead, which they would never surrender.
The Illini sealed the victory making their final eight free throws as they sank 23 of 27shots from the charity stripe.
Mbakwe finished with 17 points and 16 caroms, his 14th double-double of the season. Ralph Sampson III added 17 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. It was his first double figure rebounding effort since the season opener. Blake Hoffarber added 15 points.
Minnesota made just 24 of 66 shots from the field (36.3 percent) and was just four of 15 from beyond the arc. The Golden Gophers got little help from their bench as their reserves were just one of 12 from the field. Their top three scorers were 18 of 39 from the field, but the rest of the team was just six of 27 (22.2 percent) from the floor.
McCamey and Mike Davis led the Illini with 17 points each. Davis added nine rebounds. Paul had 12 points as he made all eight free throws and D.J. Richardson scored 11.
Minnesota faces Iowa Sunday at 5:00 pm on a game that will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
The Hawkeyes, under first year head coach Fran McCaffery are 3-9 in Big Ten play and 10-14 overall. However, they have played better recently, beating Michigan State by 20 and Indiana on the road before losing to Wisconisn in overtime at home Wednesday.
Iowa has struggled in most offensive categories. They are averaging 6801 points per game (213th in the country), 35.2 rebounds (175th) and 13.6 assists (135th). The Hawkeyes are shooting just 44.4% from the field (140th). They are seventh in the Big Ten in conference games in scoring defense (67 points per game), ninth in 3-point percentage (33.6 percent) and tenth in free throw percentage (67.0 percent).
Iowa is led by junior Matt Gatens, who is averaging a team-high 12.8 points per game. Junior college transfer Bryce Cartwright is adding 11.0 points and a team-best 5.4 assists, third best in the Big Ten. Freshman Melsahn Basabe, who had originally signed with McCaffery when he was the Siena head coach, has been a pleasant surprise as he is averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest. He is fifth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, making 56.1 percent of his shots.
Junior forward Andrew Brommer of Rosemount is averaging a career-high 3.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Brommer had originally committed to Minnesota, but re-opened his recruitment with the hiring of Golden Gopher head coach Tubby Smith.
Minnesota signee Andre Hollins, a 6-foot-2 guard from Memphis (Tenn.) White Station, scored 16 points as the Spartans defeated Mitchell 79-43 on Senior Night Tuesday. Freshman standout Laron Black scored 29 points in the win. Hollins is averaging a team-high 25.6 points per game as the Spartans are off to a 21-5 start. They face Central for the third time this season as they meet Friday on the road. The Spartans lost to Central 60-53 in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Classic and 56-46 at home.
The other Gopher signee Joe Coleman, a 6-foot-4 guard from Minnetonka (Minn.) Hopkins, scored 16 points as the Royals defeated Minnetonka Tuesday 87-62 and had 12 points in a 90-48 win over Minneapolis Patrick Henry Thursday. They improved to 18-1 with the win. Coleman is scoring 22.5 points per contest. The Royals face crosstown rival Minnetonka Tuesday. Coleman averaged 24.7 points per game as a junior and helped lead Hopkins to back-to-back Class AAAA titles. Hopkins was ranked No. 13 in the most recent USA Today poll. They face Edina at home Friday. Coleman was recently named one of the 20 finalists for Minnesota's Mr. Basketball, an award he is expected to win.