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Spirited effort can be applauded even in another Gophers basketball loss


The Gophers men’s basketball team remains locked on a Big Ten win. Are they getting half a victory for a moral victory?

The Gophers deserved more than a cold march to their dorms late Wednesday night after nearly pulling off a stunner before falling awfully short, 61-57, to the Indiana Hoosiers.

A loss is always a loss in the unforgiving nature of major college athletics, but sometimes performance can be judged less harshly and less critical of those on the wrong end of the outcome.

Sometimes you applaud the effort, appreciate it for what it was, and move on.

Such was the case for the Gophers that night.

Spectators arrived at Williams Arena for a whistleblower at 8 p.m., expecting the Hoosiers to have full control by 8:05 p.m.

Gophers already have a talent shortage when healthy. Injuries forced them to play without three starters in the rotation, leaving coach Ben Johnson with just seven available scholarship players against the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten conference.

The Shorthanded Seven included one player (Will Ramberg) who had played just two minutes in the previous eight games and another (Treyton Thompson) who had played just 11 minutes in the previous six games.

The Gophers led by one point with less than a minute to play.

Go figure.

The Hoosiers won that last minute to win the game, but the full 40 minutes provided another reminder that showing up in an arena, stadium or ballpark creates the possibility of witnessing something totally unexpected and dramatic.

Sports are meant to be fun and entertaining, and not much about this Gophers season has been fun or entertaining. The old barn finally felt alive on Wednesday night as the crowd reveled in the ridicule, cheering vigorously every dive on the floor for a loose ball or a big shot from Jamison Battle, who looked like a star again.

The Gophers have received their share of deserved criticism this season. Their talent issues are evident, which is best reflected in their attacking struggles. The only solution is for Johnson to recruit better talent.

The results on the field were miserable enough, enough to demoralize a team, but the Gophers brought plenty of energy and a fight to the Hoosiers despite the depleted rosters.

The Gophers had no business in this game. Their effort deserves a tip. They gave everything they had, but failed. No shame in that.

Johnson’s rotation dwindled to five players for most of the second half after Joshua Ola-Joseph limped off the pitch just before halftime. Ola-Joseph didn’t come back until Thompson fouled with 43 seconds left.

A zone defense disrupted Indiana’s offensive flow. The Gophers had better ball movement on offense, which led to quality shooting and just five turnovers (well below their season average of 13). And Johnson handled the game smartly to navigate an extremely slim margin for error.

The effort stood out more than anything. Competitive combat.

Battle played all 40 minutes and looked like himself again after struggling throughout the season. His 20 points and four three-pointers carried the offense.

The underused Thompson stayed on the court for nearly 37 minutes and looked like he was about to collapse from exhaustion at the end, having to fight Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis without help from his teammates. injured Dawson Garcia and Pharrel Payne.

Thompson missed all five of his three-point attempts, but his efforts allowed him to contribute eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Something to lean on for him personally. And the whole team.

This version of Indiana isn’t exactly a Bobby Knight outfit, but Jackson-Davis is an inside charge and falling behind on a last-minute missed free throw gave his team the advantage for good. .

A close and fiery loss counts as much as any, but the Gophers have shown improvement in the most unlikely and unexpected of circumstances. Hard to complain about.

startribune Gt Itly

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