Gophers lose big lead, suffer epic collapse against Maryland

Michael Geiger, Editor

Going into halftime against Maryland, the Gopher basketball team likely felt on top of the world. Minnesota just played its best half of the season against the ninth-ranked Terrapins and held a commanding 47-31 lead. Everything went right in the game’s first 20 minutes: the Gophers shot the lights out, played stifling defense, and even got a few friendly whistles. But by the time the final buzzer sounded, the sky had fallen on the team.

The Gophers saw their once-17 point lead over Maryland slowly evaporate during the second half, and the home crowd watched in horror as their team began playing without any semblance of composure or confidence. Head Coach Richard Pitino pleaded with his team during timeouts in his usual animated fashion, but the onslaught of Terrapin baskets continued to propel the visitors back into the game.

However, the Gophers remained in front of Maryland for almost the entire second half and clung to a four-point lead with less than a minute to play. But free-throw woes doomed Minnesota, as guards Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur both missed the front ends of 1-and-1s in the game’s final 60 seconds. 

Kalscheur’s miss proved to be particularly devastating, as Maryland pulled down the rebound from his miss, drove down the court, and found guard Darryl Morsell who hit a 25-foot three-point basket with 1.9 seconds left to give Maryland a one-point lead. After a timeout, Minnesota was forced to go the length of the court to attempt a game-winning shot. A long inbounds pass found center Daniel Oturu near the Gopher three-point line, and Otutu attempted a shot at the buzzer that fell well short.

 

The Gophers saw their once-17 point lead over Maryland slowly evaporate during the second half, and the home crowd watched in horror as their team began playing without any semblance of composure or confidence. Head Coach Richard Pitino pleaded with his team during timeouts in his usual animated fashion, but the onslaught of Terrapin baskets continued to propel the visitors back into the game.”

 

The home crowd roared in outrage, as video replay appeared to show that the Gopher was fouled both as he caught the ball and once again as he put up his shot. However, the refs swallowed their whistles and quickly exited the court to a chorus of boos from the crowd and a string of expletives courtesy of Richard Pitino.

Minnesota saw strong play from both Oturu and Carr throughout the game. The always-reliable Oturu put up 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Carr scored 19 points and dished out 7 assists. Carr, who played all 40 minutes against Maryland, also set the new Minnesota single-season assist record during the game with his 182nd assist of the year.

The jaw-dropping loss to Maryland dropped Minnesota to 13-14 on the season and most likely served as the death knell for the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Barring a late-season miracle, Minnesota will feel nothing but bitterness and regret on Selection Sunday, knowing that they blew multiple opportunities that would have all but ensured their selection.

Head Coach Richard Pitino now finds himself firmly situated on the hot seat, if he was not on there already. If his team does indeed end up missing the NCAA Tournament, it will mean that he will have led his teams to college basketball’s most prestigious tournament just twice in his seven years at the helm of the Gopher program.

The patience of the Gopher basketball fanbase is starting to wear increasingly thin. Pitino has every tool that is necessary to field a winning team at his disposal: a brand-new $162 million athletic facility, proximity to the best local high school talent, and one of the best home arenas in all of college basketball.

For years, Gopher football toiled in the land of mediocrity. At times, the program would show flashes of potential, but for years the team failed to sustain any kind of real success. Athletic Director Mark Coyle’s bold hire of P.J. Fleck proved to be the kick-start the football program needed to reach its potential. It’s time to ask if the basketball program needs a similar shakeup at the top.