Gophers suffer deja vu, fall to 0-7 on road with 72-59 loss to Maryland

Gophers forward Brandon Johnson slammed the basketball down after he fouled Maryland’s Darryl Morsell in the first half of Sunday’s game. Off the bounce, Johnson fumbled the catch, proving next to nothing could go right for Minnesota, not even venting frustration.

With a 72-59 blowout loss to the Terrapins in College Park, Md., Minnesota fell to 0-7 on the road this season, deepening the worst road record in the Big Ten.

The Gophers’ loss was not only precedented in its mostly-one-sided nature in road games this season, it held a startling amount of deja vu from Maryland’s resounding win in Minneapolis in late January. The Terrapins (11-10, 5-9) had put a straitjacket on the Gophers in their 63-49 win Jan. 23, holding Minnesota under 50 points for the first time in nearly 50 games since the 2019 Big Ten tournament.

It was the same story to start Sunday’s game, with Minnesota managing only 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the game and trailing 44-28 at the half. But it was the other side of the court that had Gophers coach Richard Pitino’s attention.

“We were not very good defensively,” said Pitino, who lost his sixth straight game to Maryland since 2017. “They were just beating us off the bounce.”

Gophers center Liam Robbins, who rolled his ankle in the 71-68 win over No. 24 Purdue on Thursday, got in early foul trouble and lacked mobility and the ability to jump due to the injury. His diminished presence negated Minnesota’s No. 2 offensive option and shot-blocking presence. He finished with two points and no blocks in 18 minutes.

“He tried to fight through it, but you could just tell that he was really hurting,” Pitino said.

In the second half, Minnesota (13-8, 6-8 Big Ten) fought back and put together an 11-0 run to cut Maryland’s lead to 65-59 with three minutes left, but Aaron Wiggins quickly answered with a 3-pointer. He led all scorers with 17, and that trey served as the final blow to Minnesota’s chances.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. led Minnesota with 14 points, while Marcus Carr continued to struggle on the road and had only 9 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

Going into the game, the Gophers wanted to take advantage inside with 7-footer Robbins drawing a matchup with 6-foot-7 forward Donta Scott. But Robbins’ foul trouble was another familiar theme from the first matchup.

Pitino said the Gophers didn’t have anyone that wanted or could make a play in their first matchup against the Terps, and that too was on repeat Sunday. The Terrapins collapsed on Robbins with multiple defenders and allowed the Gophers to shoot 3-pointers.

“For practice, we worked on penetrating the defense and kicking it out. But I mean it’s just when you get in a game scenario, the mind takes over sometimes and it doesn’t really go as planned,” Gophers guard Gabe Kalscheur said. “We just got to get better with our flow on offense.”

Minnesota managed only seven assists on 19 field goals and shot 32 percent from the field.

After getting blown out in the first five road defeats, Minnesota had a chance to beat Rutgers on Feb. 4, but faltered in late-game situations and fell 76-72. Pitino decided to look at the bulk of quality play against the Scarlet Knights as a positive step forward toward their first road win.

But on Sunday, they took another step backward.

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