Coral Gables, Fla. - Playing at the University of Miami in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Minnesota men's basketball team dropped a 63-58 decision this evening (Dec. 2), losing its third straight.
Down by two, an Al Nolen (Minneapolis, Minn.) put-back erased the Hurricanes' lead and tied game at 53-all with 2:52 left to play. However, Miami (8-0) scored the next six points to take a commanding 61-53 lead with just 26 ticks left on the clock.
A free throw and pair of buckets by Nolen brought Minnesota (4-3) back within five at 63-58 in the final 10 seconds, but it was too little, too late, as the final seconds ran off the clock. Nolen would finish with nine points on the night on 3-of-6 shooting from the field, with a 3-of-4 mark from the free throw line. Nolen also swiped five steals on the night and grabbed a team-high six rebounds, while playing a team-high 33 minutes.
After the Gophers opened the second half with a five-point lead (30-25), the back and forth final session saw neither team take a lead of more than four until the final minute. The second half saw the score tied four times, and the lead change three times. The Gophers' last lead came with 9:07 to play after a three by Devoe Joseph (Pickering, Ontario)
The Gophers took their first lead since early in the first half by stringing together a 6-0 run late in the opening period. Trailing by two at 21-19 with five minutes remaining, the Gophers rattled off six straight points, which turned into an 11-4 run over the last five minutes to give Minnesota a 30-25 lead heading into the lockerroom. The run was bookended by Blake Hoffarber (Minnetonka, Minn.) three-pointers, as he hit three on the night to finish with nine points.
Hoffarber led the charge on a 37 percent night for the Maroon and Gold from behind the arc, as Lawrence Westbrook (Chandler, Ariz.) and Joseph each added two from downtown as well. Westbrook finished with a team-high 14 points, with 11 coming in the first half.
The Gophers struggled at the line, making less than 47 percent (7-of-15) of their free throws, while the Hurricanes were not much better, finishing under 54 percent (6-of-11). Miami held a slight edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Gophers 34-to-33.
After playing four games in the last seven days, spanning each coast, the Gophers will get to return the friendly confines of Williams Arena to close out 2009. The Gophers' next six games are all at home, and they do not go back on the road until Jan. 2 when they head south to Iowa.
But first, Minnesota will turn its attention to Brown, which comes to Minneapolis on Saturday, Dec. 5, for a 2:30 p.m. contest.