Gophers go 11-for-11 at the line but losing streak reaches a dozen
With six minutes left in the first half Saturday, Gophers forward Jamison Battle checked out of the game to deal with back issues that resurfaced after hindering his play earlier this season.
That's all second-year Gophers coach Ben Johnson needed was for another one of his top scorers to be dealing with an injury.
It took five games to get leading scorer Dawson Garcia back healthy from a bone bruise. Freshman guard Braeden Carrington missed seven games with a leg injury.
Battle returned late in the first half, but the Gophers saw Carrington leave the floor limping with a knee injury in the second half. The health problems continued for the U in a 12th straight loss, falling 78-67 Saturday against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln.
The Gophers (7-20, 1-16 Big Ten) set a school-record going 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Garcia finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Battle and Ta'Lon Cooper tied for a team-best 12 points, but the Gophers gave up 21 points on 19 turnovers.
The Huskers (15-14, 8-10) were led by Sam Griesel's 19 points — and swept the season series after also pulling off the 81-79 overtime win Jan. 7 at Williams Arena. They lost Juwan Gary and Emmanuel Bandoumel for the season since that matchup, but Fred Hoiberg's club found a way to overcome their injuries.
Nebraska's won five of its last six games, including a fourth in a row following Saturday. Hoiberg has doubled last year's Big Ten win total in his fourth season. He also has the program's most conference victories since 2017-18 under Tim Miles.
In his second season, Johnson's still searching for the Gophers' second league victory. Their only win followed the nail-biting loss to Nebraska at home. That came on 70-67 at struggling Ohio State on Jan. 12.
In the second half Saturday, the Gophers faced a 52-38 deficit but answered with a three-point shooting barrage from Battle, Cooper, Carrington and Jaden Henley.
Henley scored all of his 11 points in the second half, including a three to pull within 58-52 with 7:28 left. Nebraska's Griesel responded with a spinning layup to ignite a 16-9 run.
With just under four minutes remaining, Carrington appeared to collide with a Husker player and needed help to the bench with his left knee in pain.
The Gophers were within seven points several times in the last few minutes, including before a crazy sequence with 1:44 left.
Nebraska walk-on Sam Hoiberg saved the ball from going out of bounds before the Gophers forced a miss on defense. Henley's block was tipped back. And Hoiberg outhustled three players for the ball and scored to make it 68-59. That basically summed up what has been frustrating week for the Gophers.
The Gophers, who lost three straight road games, also suffered a huge blow when their top 2023 recruit Dennis Evans asked out of his letter of intent on Friday.
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.