The Gophers’ rut grew deeper Saturday at Williams Arena.
Minnesota’s cold shooting and the absences of two pivotal starters were death knells in an 81-47 loss to No. 5 Purdue. The Gophers (13-6, 2-4) shot 30 percent form the field and have now lost three straight games in a week without center Reggie Lynch (suspension for sexual misconduct investigations) and guard Amir Coffey (shoulder injury).
Minnesota’s 34-point defeat was the second largest of all time at home, behind the 39-point loss to No. 1 UCLA in 1968.
Meanwhile, the Boilermakers continue to soar. Purdue (17-2, 6-0) has won 13 straight games since November. Purdue forward Vincent Edwards led the way with 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting in 29 minutes.
If the Gophers were going to upset the Big Ten leaders, Minnesota’s leading scorers Jordan Murphy and Nate Mason would be needed to shoulder the load. Instead, both struggled to score from the start until they sat out the end of the blowout. They combined to shoot 6 for 18 from the field (33 percent) and were both held well below their season averages.
After 17 straight double-doubles to start the season, Murphy has been held below 10 rebounds for the second consecutive games, including the blowout loss to Northwestern on Wednesday. He was the only Gopher in double figures Saturday with 10 points to go with four rebounds.
The Boilermakers blew open the game with a 15-0 run in a five-minute stretch in the middle of the first half to open up a 24-11 lead. The margin swelled to 20 at 37-17 with 2:36 remaining.
A Gophers spurt cut Purdue’s lead to 40-27 at the half. Minnesota shot 29 percent in the first 20 minutes, with leading scorer Murphy with six points on only four shots. Minnesota cut it to 10 with three free throws from Isaiah Washington to start the second half, but it increased from there.
Mason, the Gophers second-leading scorer, didn’t make a basket until 6:11 in the first half. He was 1-for-6 shooting, including 0 for 4 from three-point range, before the break. He finished with eight points and was 2 for 10 from the field.
Early in the first half, Purdue center Isaac Haas’s hand inadvertently hit Mason in the throat, and Pitino drew a technical foul for his reaction to the no-call. Mason stayed in the game.