Richard Pitino has lamented how fans can’t come watch his Gophers men’s basketball team in person at Williams Arena this season, especially on Saturday afternoons when The Barn would be at or near capacity to see their ranked program.
This Saturday, the lack of witnesses was a blessing in disguise. Minnesota fans, if present, likely would have buried their head in their hands over an unsightly performance in a 63-49 loss to Maryland.
The 17th-ranked Gophers had won all 11 previous games at The Barn, and with Michigan, were the only Big Ten programs with undefeated marks at home thus far — albeit in nearly empty venues during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gophers (11-5, 4-5 Big Ten) had come out of eight straight conference games against ranked opponents at .500, but couldn’t start to create some separation against teams beneath them in the standings such as Maryland (9-7, 3-6).
Marcus Carr finished with more than half the U’s points, a game-high 25, and Jamal Mashburn Jr. contributed nine off the bench, but that’s where the U’s offense options ended. Both Gach and Gabe Kalscheur went a combined 0 for 10 from the field and 0 for 8 from the field.
Gophers center Liam Robbins, the Naismith Trophy player of the week, picked up three fouls in the opening two minutes of the second half. Carrying over one foul from the first half, he was relegated to the bench for 11 minutes. The key cog of the Gophers offense finished with six points on six shots as the Terrapins brought double-teams often when he got the ball in the post.
A week ago, Minnesota had held No. 7 Michigan’s offense to a season-low 33% shooting in a 75-57 upset win, but Maryland got plenty of good looks in the first half and were able to shoot 54% from field and 45% from deep at the break.
The Terrapins’ leading scorer, Eric Ayala, exceeded his 13.8 per-game average with 21 points.
The Gophers crawled out of the gate to start the game and Maryland never trailed.
“We definitely started the game slow, super slow, probably the slowest we’ve ever come out to a game,” Gophers forward Brandon Johnson said. “We just made the mistake of thinking everything was going to come easy and in this conference, everything is going to be a challenge, regardless of who we are playing on any given night. Every team has talent and we have to approach it in that way.”
The Terrapins stormed to a 17-3 lead, mixing in some zone defense, but Carr and Mashburn combined for a 14-3 run to bring the deficit to 20-17.
But Minnesota’s defense continued to let them down in giving up open looks at the rim and 3-point line, and Maryland re-extended the lead with a 13-6 spurt. They led 36-27 at the half.
In the second half, Minnesota cut the Terrapins’ lead to six, but couldn’t get any closer.