After winning three games at the Vancouver Showcase in British Columbia, Minnesota took on Boston College Monday in the Big Ten/ACC challenge.
Head coach Richard Pitino said the game was going to be the team's toughest test of the season and that turned out to be the case. The Gophers struggled mightily from the field in the second half. Boston College (5-1) defeated Minnesota (5-1) 68-56 for the team's first loss of the season.
"We were in foul trouble so much," Pitino told the Gopher radio network. "Offensively not being able to make shots and then defensively having different rotations in was very challenging."
The Gophers and Eagles went back and forth throughout the first half with Boston College leading 33-32 at the intermission. However, just before halftime, Eagles head coach Jim Christian made the switch to a zone defense. That decision proved pivotal as Minnesota was abysmal offensively from that point on.
The Gophers have had issues scoring against zone defenses all season so far and that alarming trend continued on Monday. They shot 19-65 (.292) from the field including an ice-cold 5-30 (.167) on three-point attempts.
"I thought we were getting good looks," Pitino told the Gopher radio network. "We just couldn't knock it down for whatever reason."
Senior Jordan Murphy had a strong first half in which he totaled 11 points and nine rebounds but he played limited minutes in the second half before fouling out with more than five minutes to go. He finished with 16 points and 11 boards for his fifth double-double of the season.
Junior Amir Coffey and freshman Gabe Kalscheur both scored in double digits with 12 points each. However, the rest of the team combined for 16 points. Nine of those points came from the bench.
In his post-game interview, Pitino pointed to inexperience as a source of the team's struggles. The team is still playing without Eric Curry who was sidelined with knee surgery before the season began. Not having the redshirt sophomore available hurts Minnesota's front court depth which Boston College exposed.
"When [Curry] went down, we became younger," Pitino told the Gopher radio network. "That's a key injury for us. He's a smart player, he's a really good player, but it is what it is. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, we're not going to make excuses. We're going to move on."
For Boston College, junior Nik Popovic scored on all nine of his shots to lead the Eagles with 18 points. Freshman Wynston Tabbs wasn't far behind with 17 points. The Gophers were able to contain star junior Ky Bowman, who shot 3-13 (.231), but he still added 12 points in 39 minutes played.
For the Gophers, it was the third-consecutive season suffering their first defeat of the year in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. They will next play on Friday against Oklahoma State in a neutral-site game held at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We'll evaluate this film," Pitino told the Gopher radio network. "We're still sitting at 5-1, we still have some good, quality wins, it's just a matter of now staying together, staying united and just getting better — improving."