best tracker Gophers season ends with 76-64 loss to Indiana St. in 2nd round of NIT – Techss

Gophers season ends with 76-64 loss to Indiana St. in 2nd round of NIT

Pharrel Payne finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, and three other players reached double-figures, but Minnesota (19-15) saw its season end with a 76-64 loss versus top-seeded Indiana State (30-6) in the Second Round of the NIT at the Hulman Center.

Payne made 7-of-13 field goals, scoring nine of his team-high 16 points in the second half, as Minnesota fought back from an 18 point first-half deficit to pull within three points with 11:46 remaining. But every time the Gophers made a run at the Sycamores, they had an answer in a game where they never trailed. Mike Mitchell Jr. finished with 13 points, Cam Christie had 12 points and five rebounds, Elijah Hawkins had 10 points, and Dawson Garcia added a team-high 12 rebounds, six points, and two blocked shots.

Hawkins, who had 15 assists in the Gophers first round win at Butler, was limited to a season-low one assist before having to leave the game with an injury in the second half. He finishes his junior season with a school-record total of 247 assists, which topped Marcus Carr’s previous school record by 40 assists.

Minnesota trailed 9-8 early, before a 9-0 run by the Sycamores put them up by 10. Trailing 18-10, Garcia was whistled for his second personal foul and then picked up a technical, forcing him to the bench with three early fouls. With Garcia and his seven rebounds out of the game, Indiana State went on a 15-5 run to build its biggest lead at 33-15 with 4:55 remaining in the half. Minnesota countered with an 8-2 run behind back-to-back three-pointers from Christie and Hawkins and a five-foot hook shot by Parker Fox. The Gophers continued their run with a layup by Payne and an 18-foot jumper by Mitchell Jr., cutting the deficit to 35-27. Minnesota had chances to pull even closer, but struggles at the free throw line and a shot clock violation kept it from happening, and the Sycamores took a 38-28 lead to the locker room.

Payne led the Gophers with seven points and five rebounds at the break, while Hawkins had seven points, and Christie and Fox each added five. Garcia paced the Gophers with seven boards despite his foul trouble. Minnesota made five of its last seven field goal attempts, finishing the first half at 11-of-28 (.393). The Gophers had a 20-12 rebounding advantage at the half, but committed nine turnovers and were just 4-of-10 at the free throw line.

Indiana State opened the second half on a 6-2 run to expand the lead back to 14 points, but the Gophers got a three-point play from Payne and a deep three-pointer by Hawkins to pull within 44-36. Indiana State answered with an 8-2 run, including a four-point play, to stretch the lead to 52-38 with 14:38 remaining. The Gophers kept battling, getting a 17-foot jumper from Christie, a three from the top of the key by Mitchell Jr., and a pair of free throws from Garcia to pull within seven points with 13:19 left. Minnesota’s run grew to 11-0 on a layup by Payne and an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key by Christie, cutting ISU’s lead to 52-49. A 12-3 run by the Sycamores expanded the lead to 64-52 with 8:59 left, but Mitchell Jr. knocked down a deep three from the top of the key made it a nine-point game. But Indiana State extended its lead back to as many as 15 points late and advanced to play host to Cincinnati in a quarterfinal matchup.

Minnesota ends its season with 19 wins, which is a 10-game improvement on its 2022-23 season total.

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