Men’s basketball: Gophers’ 35-point loss becomes Rutgers’ biggest win since joining Big Ten

Minnesota has lost 6 straight games, one behind the 7 consecutive defeats Richard Pitino’s last team at Minnesota suffered in February-March 2021.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Rutgers
Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Jamison Battle, right, dribbles against Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Caleb McConnell during the first half Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Vincent Carchietta / USA Today Sports

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team’s long night started early on Wednesday.

After winning the opening tip, Rutgers sprang an alley-oop on unsuspecting Minnesota, and Cliff Omoruyi finishing with an easy dunk to set an immediate tone only four seconds into a painstaking 90-55 loss to the Scarlet Knights at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, N.J.

The 35-point margin was the biggest loss of the Gophers’ unraveling season; the school’s previously most-lopsided loss was a 22-point defeat to now-No. 1 Purdue, 61-39 on Jan. 19. That, too, was Minnesota’s lowest scoring output in 72 years.

Another lowlight was set Wednesday. Big Ten Network said the blowout was the biggest margin of victory for Rutgers since they joined the conference nine seasons ago.

Minnesota (7-14, 1-10 Big Ten) has lost six straight games, one behind the seven consecutive defeats Richard Pitino’s last team at Minnesota suffered in February and March 2021.


Gophers coach Ben Johnson said the emphasis coming out of a 20-point loss to Northwestern on Saturday was to not “half-step when we start games.” On Wednesday, the Gophers were a full step behind out early, but kept the deficit to 10 at halftime, and got lapped by the bitter end.

“They took it to another level and we did not respond,” Johnson said on the KFXN-FM postgame show.

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Omoruyi, who is averaging a team-high 13.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, kept coming at Minnesota and scored seven early points, including that oop. But the 6-foot-11 athlete picked up his second foul midway through the first half and didn’t return before the break. His absence helped Minnesota go on a 7-0 run to make it competitive.

Minnesota then went cold, making only 2 of 9 from the field as the Scarlet Knights went on a 12-4 run to end the half up 34-24. It got much worse in the second half.

Minnesota was without leading scorer Dawson Garcia (foot) for a third straight game, and the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten suffered against the conference’s stingiest defense. Minnesota’s offense averaged 62.2 points per game, while Rutgers allowed only 59.7 per contest.

Rutgers (15-7, 7-4) held Minnesota to 28% from the field in the first half and 36% for the game. The Gophers had 15 turnovers and the Knights converted it to 22 points.

Freshman Josh Ola-Joseph set a career-high with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Jamison Battle had 13 points but struggled from deep, making only 1 of 6 from behind the arc.

Johnson said the Gophers must do a lot of “self-reflecting” and the long night will carry over into Thursday and Friday as they dissect what went so horribly wrong.


“The disappointing part was there wasn’t much they changed from the first half, and we were good in the first half,” Johnson said. “It was a couple of missed assignments that we repeated over and over.”


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