Feb. 4, 2021: Minnesota fell to the hands of Rutgers 76-72 Thursday, falling to 11-7 on the season and 0-6 on the road.
Thursday’s matchup with (10-6) Rutgers initially looked grim for Minnesota. The Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 9-0 lead 5:23 into the ball game. Freshman guard, Jamaal Mashburn Jr. came to the Gophers rescue with a team-high 10 first-half points. Liam Robbins joined Mashburn Jr. with his eight points and five boards. After recording seven assists on 14 made field goals in the half, Minnesota trailed 37-35 heading into the locker room.
The Gophers opened the second half strong led by 11 points from Marcus Carr in the half. Some silly turnovers and questionable shots down the stretch found Minnesota trailing by three with about 25 seconds left. Carr and the Gophers opted for a contested isolation three 10 seconds into the shot clock, ultimately extended Rutgers’ lead too far. Minnesota lost 76-72.
What we learned:
Coaching. The so-called “trolls” on Twitter love to point on Richard Pitino’s failures and his inability to lead his team in late-game situations, but as an optimistic Minnesotan I used to overlook those and realize that we’re Minnesota, how much better can it get? Well not anymore. Pitino was truly outclassed in that game in every way you look at it. A disciplined team would know how important this game was for the Gophers’ season-long outlook and not be so careless with the ball down the stretch. Carr’s last-second “hero ball” attempt was just the icing on the cake and it will certainly live in Richard Pitino’s infamy.
On a positive note, Liam Robbins looked great again with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he fouled out again, a problem that has plagued him all season. Jamaal Mashburn Jr. flashed great potential in the first half with 10 points, but he backed that up with an 0-4 second half. In a game that was obviously very disappointing, the few positives all had their caveats.
What I learned tonight, is that the sky is falling and it is going right for Richard Pitino’s head.
What is next:
Minnesota entered this game as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Following Thursday’s loss, they’re no 11-7 on the season and 4-7 in the Big Ten, sitting in ninth place.
The Gophers’ remaining Big Ten schedule is still quite favorable with only two games against currently ranked teams. They also still have games against Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern. I sure hope this is the lowest point of this Gophers season because any worse and I think they will find themselves out of the tournament field.
Three coaches I like:
John Beilein, retired
Craig Smith, Utah State
Mark Pope, BYU