Men's basketball: Badgers knock Gophers out of tournament
INDIANAPOLIS — Gophers coach Richard Pitino and his players all claimed they haven’t been paying attention to the latest NCAA tournament bracketology.
That was a little hard to believe.
Now they probably have no reason to keep checking the mock brackets. They almost certainly are off the bubble and NIT-bound after Friday’s embarrassing 83-57 loss to 12th-ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
“They’re done,” CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm said Friday.
It was Minnesota’s most one-sided loss since falling at Ohio State 71-45 last season.
“I hope they just don’t look at this one game,” said junior DeAndre Mathieu, who had a team-high 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting and five assists. “We have some bad losses, but we beat some really good teams.”
The path to the NCAA tournament was simple. The seventh-seeded Gophers (20-13) had to upset the second-seeded Badgers (26-6) to secure an at-large bid. But they were overmatched.
Wisconsin, which has won nine of its past 10 games, is vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It isn’t the same team that was spiraling out of control when it to lost at Minnesota on Jan. 22.
Ben Brust scored 29 points to lead the Badgers, who shot 54 percent from the field and clamped down defensively more than they had in the teams’ previous two meetings.
The Gophers, who beat Penn State in the tournament’s opening round Thursday, were held to 33 percent shooting, including 29 percent during the first half, which ended with them trailing 34-22.
Minnesota guards Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins picked the worst possible time to struggle, shooting 3 for 20 for a combined 13 points.
Sophomore Joey King, who fouled out with 4:58 left, had 14.
“I think we all have to clear our heads a little bit, take a step back and certainly focus on the mistakes we made because we are playing next week,” Pitino said. “Hopefully, it’s in the NCAA. Who knows?”
Andre Hollins, who missed his first 11 shots of the game, had played his best basketball in the postseason in years past.
He hit a clutch three-pointer Thursday to help the Gophers escape Penn State but finished with just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting Friday.
The junior guard’s first field goal came with 3:58 remaining on a three-pointer. By that time, Wisconsin had led by as many as 24 points.
Hollins wasn’t bothered at all by the sprained ankle he suffered in a Jan. 22 home win over Wisconsin. The All-Big Ten honorable mention selection was held scoreless Friday until the Badgers had a 50-33 lead midway through the second half.
“I hit a couple at the end, but it really didn’t matter,” he said. “I was trying to get to the basket, trying to get some foul calls. Shots weren’t falling. They were hitting a lot of shots. You have to get them a lot of credit. I think we let our offense dictate our defense.”
Senior Austin Hollins, who came in averaging 18 points in his previous four games, had just five points on 1-for-6 shooting.
“I don’t think there was any extra pressure,” he said. “We all had the same goal in mind. But it just didn’t turn out that way.”
Beating Wisconsin at home was arguably Minnesota’s best victory this season. Other quality wins on the résumé include Richmond on the road, Florida State, Ohio State and Iowa. The worst loss was to Northwestern at home. The Wildcats have a No. 123 RPI.
Pitino made his case that a top-five strength of schedule, 20 wins and a top-50 RPI should be enough to help the Gophers get into the NCAA tournament. But they were projected as the first team out entering Friday.
“I think we played one of the best schedules in the country — that’s normally what you want to do,” Pitino said. “We’re disappointed tonight, but I’m proud of how hard these guys have played this whole year.”
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