Minneapolis — Life on the road in the Big Ten has been brutal.
With only Illinois, Michigan State, Rutgers and Wisconsin prevailing away from home during conference play this season, No. 19 Michigan had a chance to join the short list.
The Wolverines held a one-point advantage over Minnesota with 3:22 to play but couldn't seal the deal. They stumbled in the final minutes and fell in a 75-67 loss Sunday at Williams Arena.
“Any time you're playing on the road and you have the lead at the under-4 timeout, you want to keep hold of that,” said senior center Jon Teske, who finished with nine points and four rebounds.
“Down the stretch, I mean, some of our shots weren't falling. We could've executed a little bit better and done some things a little bit better, but they played well.”
Most notably was Minnesota sophomore center Daniel Oturu, who became the latest Big Ten big man to put up impressive numbers against Michigan. Oturu finished with a career-high 30 points — passing his previous top mark of 29 points set earlier this month — and sparked a late 11-0 flurry that ended any hope of the Wolverines (11-5, 2-3 Big Ten) stealing a conference road win.
After junior guard Eli Brooks snapped a 0-for-6 start from deep and made a 3-pointer to give Michigan a 65-64 lead, Oturu made sure it was short-lived. He quickly countered with a spin move and lay-in to put Minnesota back on top, 66-65, with 3:00 to go.
That kick-started the game-sealing run as Michigan followed with five straight empty possessions — two turnovers and three missed shots — and Minnesota scored on four consecutive possessions. Redshirt junior guard Payton Willis delivered the fatal blow with a 3-pointer to put the Gophers up 73-65 with 1:03 remaining.
“I would say defensively they made a shot, we came down and the ball didn't go in the basket for us,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said when asked what went wrong in the final three minutes. “We (weren't) aggressive enough and confident enough when we took our shots down there on our end. They scored again. It was like score, stop, score, stop. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to capitalize on any of our offensive sets down the stretch.”
Senior guard Zavier Simpson had 19 points and nine assists and freshman wing Franz Wagner scored 17 for Michigan, which finished 10-for-28 from 3-point range and attempted 21 fewer free throws (six) than Minnesota.
Carr finished with 21 points — 16 coming in the second half as he continually got into the lane on dribble-drives — and 12 assists and senior forward Alihan Demir added 13 for Minnesota, which shot 54.9 percent (28-for-51) from the field and 25 percent (4-for-16) from beyond the arc.
Oturu, though, was the star for the Gophers. He finished 13-for-18 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds, drew five fouls and helped Minnesota outscore Michigan by 14 points when he was on the floor.
Even after Oturu briefly exited the game in the second half after he fell hard on his shoulder, Michigan still had no answer for him when he returned.
"He played phenomenal today,” Howard said. “He got off to a great start with 20 points, 9 of 12 shooting (in the first half). Second half unfortunately had an injury, showed a lot of mental toughness to come back in the game after having his shoulder injury. He showed that the game meant a lot to him. He came back and gave his team a big lift in the second half with his energy. The crowd got really into. Kid is special.
“He's not only done it to us, but he's been playing very well throughout the season thus far. The last five games, he's been phenomenal. I guess, actually, the last six with the performance that he had today."
Despite Oturu’s performance, the Wolverines had a chance to walk away with their first true road win of the season. They were sharp early — making nine of their first 15 shots — and took a 22-12 lead with 9:55 left in the first half.
Michigan continued to knock down outside shots to offset Oturu's paint attack. The Wolverines took their largest lead, 30-19, with 5:13 left in the half after sophomore guard David DeJulius and Teske buried 3-pointers.
But just like the second half, Michigan tumbled in the closing minutes. The Wolverines missed their final six shot attempts and scored just one point as the Gophers, behind the strength of Oturu, closed the half on an 11-1 run to cut it to 31-30 at the break.
“We were winning the whole first half and then we lost our edge at the end,” Teske said. “We were the more aggressive team in the first half and then it slipped away.”
And eventually a prime opportunity to pick up a critical conference road win did, too.
“It’s a whole team effort," Wagner said. “I think one big stretch was end of the (first) half when we let them come back into the game. We started off really good, had great energy and then lost that.
“We've just got to continue working for 40 minutes. The game is not 10 minutes, not won in 10 minutes, not won in the last three minutes. It's won the whole game. You've got to play solid all 40 minutes.”