Minnesota lost to Purdue 72-68 at Mackey Arena in its Big Ten opener. The Gophers have not won at Purdue since 2005. Minnesota is now 11-3 on the season. After a solid first half, Minnesota was unable to make shots, scoring just 32 points in the second half. Five Gophers scored in double figures, led by Mo Walker and Joey King with 13.
While it is difficult to win on the road in the Big Ten, Purdue is not a top tier team. The Boilermakers were able to impose their will on the game in the second half. Purdue was physical up and down the court, and kept the Gophers on the perimeter in the half court. The Boilermakers did a good job getting into the weak points of the zone and getting to the line. Free throws are often the difference in games, and today's was no different. Minnesota and Purdue had almost the same number of shot opportunities, but Purdue had seven more free throw attempts and made 81% of their shots. Those free throws were the difference at the end.
The Gophers have now just 1-4 in games against teams in the top 100 according KenPom. Whether this is a bad loss or not can be debated in the comments and for the future. What is true is that the Gophers have a distinct style. If the Gophers are able to run and get in transition, they will destroy teams. If they are forced to play in the half court, particularly against physical front lines, they struggle. Some of this is a size issue. The Gophers were at a distinct disadvantage on the front line, especially with Walker and Eliason in foul trouble.
With that said, the Gophers still should look at this game as one they gave away. They played poorly in the second half, and consistently failed to execute on the defensive end of the floor. There were multiple missed rotations that led to easy Purdue points. The back line seemed at times to stop communicating, which led to open Boilermaker shots. The same was true on the offensive end. Minnesota had looks, including multiple looks inside, but failed to convert. There is always an element of luck in shooting (Hollins's missed 3 with 19 seconds probably falls half the time), but too often the Gophers forced shots.
Minnesota will look to rebound from this game against Maryland on January 3rd.