Chicago — Richard Pitino's Gophers lead Rutgers 30-27 at the end of the first half of the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Here are five takeaways from the first half of action at the United Center:
1. Rick Pitino is here, which is always noteworthy.
2. Joey King came to play. The junior forward, who had 19 points in a loss to Penn State on Sunday, tallied a game-high 11 points. He has his weaknesses, but when King is hitting from outside it opens things up for go-to scorers like Andre Hollins and Mo Walker.
3. Speaking of Walker, he's having a career night on the boards. The senior center usually isn't the best rebounder, but he's racked up eight boards so far. His career-high is 13 rebounds.
4. This second half will likely define Minnesota's season. Losing to a team that won 10 games in the regular season is not a good look. If the Gophers drop this one, they can likely kiss the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) goodbye. If they win, a sliver of hope for the NCAA tournament remains alive and the NIT is a strong possibility.
5. Quiet senior backcourt. DeAndre Mathieu and Andre Hollins combined for just two points off of seven shot attempts in the first half. The Gophers need them to produce if they want to advance and salvage the season.