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Men’s basketball: Gophers offense dries up in 67-57 loss to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech (7-1) was a 12-point favorite over Minnesota (4-3) and rolled to an easy victory.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Virginia Tech
University of Minnesota guard Ta'lon Cooper (55) shoots over Virginia Tech Hokies guard Sean Pedulla (3) in the first half Monday, Nov. 28, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Cooper had 13 points and five assists in the 67-57 loss.
Lee Luther Jr. / USA Today Sports
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If Jamison Battle and Dawson Garcia are struggling offensively, it’s going to be a long night for the Gophers men’s basketball team this season.

That came Monday in a 67-57 loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Blacksburg, Va.

Battle and Garcia have averaged a combined 30 points this season, but they combined for 11 points in Minnesota’s first road game of the season.

Battle, still working his way back from preseason foot surgery, missed his first five shots and finished 2 for 10 from the field and had six points. Garcia, who played with the flu on Monday, went 2-for-9 shooting and had five points.

Virginia Tech (7-1) was a 12-point favorite over Minnesota (4-3) and rolled to an easy victory. The Hokies shot nearly 60% from the field in the first half and went on a 17-4 run to take a 39-27 lead at the break.

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Similar to its loss to UNLV in the SoCal Challenge on Wednesday, Minnesota was competitive for the opening 10 minutes of the game. On Monday, the Gophers took advantage of six Virginia Tech turnovers to take a 13-11 lead. But then in both games, they conceded a big run and couldn’t get back into the game.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech center Lynn Kidd (15) controls a rebound in front of Minnesota's Pharrel Payne (21) on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Minnesota's Dawson Garcia is at right.
Lee Luther Jr. / USA Today Sports

“We have to look at the film and figure out, overall, is there a recurring theme these last couple of games for sure,” head coach Ben Johnson said postgame on KFXN-FM. “We got to really shore those things up so we don’t have that gap where teams go on a run and you are just playing catch up from there on out.”

Minnesota was particularly hurt by Sean Pedulla’s quickness off the dribble on ball screens and with his shot-making; the point guard had 13 points to lead all scorers before intermission. He finished with a game-high 17.

In the first half, Battle was a non-factor for Minnesota, missing all three of his shots. Johnson said Battle needs to rediscover the rhythm and timing he lost in missing the first four games of the season. “Against good teams like UNLV and Virginia Tech, they don’t make it easy,” Johnson said on the radio. “And he is on the front of everybody’s scouting report and we have to help him.”

MORE MINNESOTA GOPHERS COVERAGE:
The Gophers have lost two in a row and six of seven overall.
Center Trey Thompson broke his nose at Northwestern but plans to play Wednesday vs. Rutgers
And why shouldn’t she? Indiana brings a 20-1 record and No. 4 national ranking into Wednesday’s game at the Barn
The Gophers (9-12 overall, 2-8 Big Ten) led only once, 2-0, on a layup by Rose Micheaux in the game’s first 16 seconds.
After an 81-61 loss at Northwestern on Saturday, Minnesota is 1-9 in Big Ten play with 10 games remaining
Junior wing who led Minnesota in scoring last season has struggled offensively at times this season
With two more players unavailable Wednesday, the Gophers had roughly half that roster max against Indiana at Williams Arena.
Minnesota is the worst free-throw shooting team in the nation, making a woeful 59.3% this year to rank 352 out of 352 Division I programs.
Minnesota gave itself ‘a chance,’ coach Ben Johnson said, but foul trouble for leading scorer Dawson Garcia was an issue
Minnesota managed just 39 points against the Boilermakers

Minnesota went roughly five minutes without a basket, with Pharrel Payne book-ending the drought. He had nine points and four rebounds in the first half. In the game, Payne and Ta’Lon Cooper each had 13 points for Minnesota, with Josh Ola-Joseph contributing 11.

The Gophers fell to 12-12 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after beating Pittsburgh 54-53 last season.

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