For the second time in as many road games, the Minnesota Golden Gophers let a halftime lead slip away against a top-25 opponent on the road, squandering another chance at a huge resume-building win.
This one — a 73-63 loss to the Purdue Boilermakers — may have even hurt worse than their at-the-buzzer defeat against Michigan, where the Gophers had to stage a comeback just to tie the game late. Against Purdue on Sunday afternoon, the Gophers — 11.5-point underdogs — led by a comfortable 13-point margin with 14 minutes to go before surrendering a 21-2 run in a six-minute span.
A second look shows how defensive rebounding, poor free-throw shooting and bad shot selection doomed the Gophers.
Purdue scored on nine out of 10 possessions during the decisive run, and the only time they failed to score was when Aaron Wheeler missed two free throws. It all began with an offensive rebound by 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, whose presence was unmistakable during the 21-2 spurt. Daniel Oturu helped out on a driving Carsen Edwards, then lost Haarms on the box out as Haarms gathered up the miss and laid it back in to start what ended up being a 13-0 run.
Purdue would go on to record four offensive rebounds during the stretch, and Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy missed box outs on the final three of them. The latter two came against Haarms. On the second one, Haarms tried a rare 3-pointer — a shot Minnesota should embrace Purdue taking — but Murphy began leaking down the floor without putting a body on Haarms, who raced in to clean up his own miss and tie the game at 47-47 with a layup.
Haarms’ defensive presence was bothersome to the Gophers, as well. On one possession, Murphy dribbled hesitantly as he entered the lane against Haarms, opting to kick it out to Dupree McBrayer for a missed 3-pointer late in the shot clock. Three possessions later, Murphy learned why it’s tough to shoot against Haarms. Isaiah Washington had his layup swatted by the big man, who promptly blocked Murphy’s follow-up attempt and started an entertaining fast break that lit up the crowd.
Behind-the-back pass ✅
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 3, 2019
The Gophers shot 1 of 8 during the six-minute onslaught with some undesirable shot selections. We already mentioned McBrayer’s hurried 3, Brock Stull tried a difficult long 2, Oturu missed an elbow jumper (not his strength), and Coffey missed a contested 3.
To make it more maddening, Minnesota had Purdue in the bonus the entire time, at one point finding themselves on the better end of an 8-1 foul count. The two times they did reach the line, Washington and Eric Curry missed front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities. The Gophers only missed three free throws in the game, but those two were detrimental.
The Boilermakers had been ice cold until this run, but they also hit some difficult shots that Minnesota couldn’t do much about. Edwards drained a contested 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper off the dribble, both over Gabe Kalscheur whose defense was sound.
With the game tied at 49, Ryan Cline delivered tough, back-to-back 3s to cap the Purdue spurt. The first came from NBA range over Coffey’s close out, and the second came after ducking under McBrayer, who was too wide as he tried to follow Cline over a screen.
— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) February 3, 2019
After dictating the style for over half the game, Minnesota lost all of its progress in six minutes and couldn’t recover. The Gophers never got within four after that.
Of all the things that went wrong — box outs, missed shots, missed free throws — the defensive rebounding woes should grate on the Gophers most, especially when the normally-reliable Murphy is a main culprit.
Defense is how the Gophers will win Big Ten road games, as they did against Wisconsin, but it’s tough to sustain that effort for 40 minutes without some offensive help. Minnesota’s outside shooting woes have followed them all year, but they eventually need to break through to take the next step. Even playing perfect first halves defensively against Michigan and Purdue haven’t been enough to overcome cold offensive performances. They were 2 of 16 from 3-point range against the Boilermakers.
Because of Minnesota’s inability to steal games away from home, their margin of error is minimal, and Wisconsin comes to The Barn on Wednesday, prepared to get revenge. The Gophers will again be asked to bounce back from a disheartening loss, as they’ve done several times before this season.
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