MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mo Walker led Minnesota with 19 points and eight rebounds and Andre Hollins added 12 points, helping the Gophers avenge a recent loss to Nebraska with a 60-42 victory over the sputtering Huskers on Saturday.
Hollins had six assists and five rebounds, too, and the Gophers (14-9, 3-7) bounced back from their latest of six Big Ten losses by five points or fewer. One of those was a 52-49 decision at Nebraska 11 days ago, when Walker had a woeful four points, three turnovers and four fouls.
Shavon Shields had 11 points for the Huskers (12-9, 4-5), who were outscored in the paint 30-18. Terran Petteway scored 10 points, but this was the second straight lackluster performance by the high-caliber duo. After combining to shoot 5 for 23 from the floor in a 58-44 loss at Michigan on Tuesday, they were 8 for 23 this time including a 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
The Huskers trailed for almost the last 33 minutes of the game. Tai Webster’s 3-pointer pulled them within 39-35, but a three-point play by Walker pushed Minnesota’s lead back to seven points. Hollins hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to seal it at 52-42, and Nate Mason answered with a swish from behind the arc on the next possession.
This was the lowest score by the Huskers in 71 games since a 47-41 loss to Wisconsin on Jan. 6, 2013.
The Gophers stumbled into the middle of their Big Ten schedule with their worst halfway-point record of the eight years that the conference has had an 18-game slate. They started 2-7 in the 2005-06 season and finished 5-11 under coach Dan Monson. Coach Richard Pitino’s assessment this week, in light of the latest defeat at Penn State, was that his team was playing scared. He took responsibility for getting the guys to be more relaxed and unafraid of making mistakes.
Pitino, in an attempt to shape a positive mindset, went so far as to enact a Twitter ban for the players for the rest of the season to shield them from whatever 140-characters-or-less criticism might come their way through that social medium.
Huskers coach Tim Miles sent out his customary halftime tweet, perhaps too frustrated by the performance on offense to use any commas: “We are stopping after breaking their press which is disrupting our offensive flow and we are turning the ball over way too much.”
The Gophers used a zone defense in the half court, like Michigan did on Tuesday, and coupled that with the trap in the back court to force 15 of the 20 giveaways by the Huskers in the first 20 minutes. Minnesota’s own troubles with rebounding and finishing fast breaks, transcending just this game, kept Nebraska close.
Walter Pitchford’s high-arc jumper in the lane tied the game at 14 with 7:43 left before the break, but that was the last field goal the Huskers made of the half. After losing their first three Big Ten road games in ugly fashion with black uniforms, the Huskers went back to the traditional red look for this one. But the switch didn’t help.
Nebraska assistant coach Jim Molinari was one of Monson’s assistants. He took over as head coach when Monson was fired during the 2006-07 season.
Minnesota made 14 of 17 free throws, by far its best game from the line in Big Ten play.
Nebraska returns home to play Northwestern Tuesday.
Minnesota hosts Purdue next Saturday, after a full week between games.
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