Gophers dig another big hole, can't get out in loss to Michigan
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gophers men's basketball team faced a top-five team for the second time in five days and the game followed a similar script.
Early turnovers were too much to overcome, and the late surge wasn't enough.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points and Trey Burke had 18 points and nine assists to help No. 5 Michigan stave off the ninth-ranked Gophers 83-75 on Thursday night.
Austin Hollins led the Gophers (15-3, 3-2 Big Ten) with 21 points and four steals, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Andre Hollins was drawn into early foul trouble, but he came alive after halftime to finish with 13 points and four assists.
"We just got down again -- and not enough time to come back," Mbakwe said, lamenting the 22 points the Wolverines scored off their 10 first-half turnovers. "We've just got to take care of the ball better."
Hardaway hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the Wolverines (17-1, 4-1), who had the lead for the final 33 minutes of the game and finished with 13 steals to fuel their fast break. Nik Stauskas added 11 points.
The Gophers crept back in the game after falling behind by 19 points early in the second half but squandered some opportunities to really make the Wolverines worry. Joe Coleman missed three of four free throws in the final 4 minutes.
After Rodney Williams cut the margin to 77-70 with 2:40 remaining, the Gophers got the ball back but Williams had an open 3-pointer rim out and Andre Hollins had his putback attempt blocked underneath.
Burke stretched the lead to nine with two free throws with 43 seconds left, effectively sealing another signature victory for the Wolverines.
"I think we just got out of sorts and weren't really focused on what we do, worrying about other things," Coleman said.
Coach Tubby Smith was disappointed by the effort. He said he saw a warning sign in Wednesday's practice, particularly with the defense by his starting five.
"It showed up today. It raised its ugly head," he said.
Michigan moved into a four-way tie for second place in the stacked Big Ten behind surprisingly unbeaten Wisconsin. Minnesota lost its second straight game after falling 88-81 at then-No. 5 Indiana last Saturday. The Wolverines have beaten the Gophers in eight of their last nine meetings.
"We're going to have to do something out of the ordinary to be in the Big Ten hunt," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Every team is going to have to do that."
The Gophers, whose losses are all to top 10 teams, have yet to do that.
This was the first game at Williams Arena pitting two top 10 teams in The Associated Press poll since Michigan visited Minnesota in 1977, and the fans at "The Barn" raised the noise level to the occasion. In the first 4 minutes, Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins both swished 3-pointers and Mbakwe blocked two turnaround shots by Jordan Morgan, just the right way to rev up the crowd.
The Gophers are built around an aggressive, athletic defense that Smith has long employed, annually leading the conference in blocks and steals. But the Wolverines can guard people, too, and they made the Gophers pay nearly every time they made a rushed, forced or panicked pass under heavy ball pressure. The Wolverines entered the game with the fewest fouls in the nation at 11.6 per game.
Hardaway knocked down his share of shots to deflate the Gophers defense a bit and keep the fans from overtaking the game. The Wolverines, who matched the best start in program history at 16-0, fell behind by 21 points in the first half of their 56-53 loss at Ohio State last Sunday. They made sure to avoid a similar sloppy early performance, forcing enough misses and turnovers by the Gophers to ignite their breath-taking fast break.
Smith again watched his five backups collectively struggle, and the Wolverines took advantage during a 2-minute stretch in the middle of the first half after Andre Hollins picked up his second foul. Mitch McGary took a second straight turnover by point guard Maverick Ahanmisi and cruised for a dunk at the other end to put Michigan up 16-13. Julian Welch, the one second-stringer who contributed, scored eight points in the first half. But Welch had three turnovers himself.
The Wolverines put together a 20-7 run to stretch the lead to 56-37, punctuating the takeover with a steal by Glenn Robinson III near midcourt from Williams and a 360-degree dunk on the other end.© The Associated Press