Gophers Stumble Again Late but Recover to Extinguish On-Fire Rutgers at The Barn

minnesota gophers pharrel payne
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team was back at the friendly confines of The Barn on Sunday evening, after two-straight losses on the road vs Iowa and Purdue, away games in which they held 8 and 13 point halftime leads, respectively.

Related: Gophers Legitimate Contenders for Double-Bye in Big Ten Tournament at Target Center

No such lead existed for the Golden Gophers tonight, who went into the break tied 37-37. Instead, Minnesota built up their lead in the 2nd half, a much better strategy, in retrospect.

Minnesota Gophers nearly blow another late lead

Still, that didn’t stop them from trying to give it away late. The Gophers led by 17 points with 3:39 left in the game. That’s an insurmountable lead that late, right? Most would think so, but not tonight at Williams Arena. In one minute and twenty-eight seconds, the Scarlet Knights went on an 11-0 run and cut the lead to six.

Luckily, the Gophers would recover from their stumble before they fell flat on their face, mostly because they were able to hit free throws down the stretch, something that has not been a given this season.

All ten Golden Gopher starters scored in double figures. Sophomore Pharrel Payne had a career night (something he’s been sitting on), scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, to go with 2 blocks. Elijah Hawkins was Minnesota’s motor on offense once again. The nation’s leader in assists scored 16 points to go with 7 more dimes and 6 rebounds (he’s 5’10” in the right shoes).

Related: Minnesota Gophers Cam Christie Earns Big Ten Freshman of the Week Honors

Gophers keep March Madness hopes alive and well

Not only was Minnesota able to hold a red-hot Rutgers team off, who had won four-straight games entering tonight’s contest in Dinkytown, but they stretched their lead out to 11 points before the final buzzer, which is important in today’s college basketball because the NET rankings see a win by 10+ points as more significant (especially at home).

Next up for Ben Johnson’s Minnesota Golden Gophers is Ohio State on Thursday at Williams Arena, a game that just became way more productive, if they can get the victory. Earlier on Sunday, the Buckeyes took down the Boilermakers, who are ranked No. 2 in the country.

OSU was already ranked ahead of Minnesota in the NET (#72) entering Sunday. They will skyrocket up those rankings on Monday, meaning a win later this week will be that much more important toward the Gophers climbing into the March Madness conversation.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: