2:30 PM ET, February 8, 2003
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The intensity Purdue rode during its rise to first place in the first half of the Big Ten season wasn't anywhere to be found Saturday.Minnesota was hoarding it all. Rick Rickert scored 26 points and Michael Bauer added 17 to lead the Golden Gophers past the (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) Boilermakers 90-68. "I didn't see that coming,'' Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. "With the circumstances of needing a win where we're at in our season, this by far was the most important game of the year for us.'' Purdue's four-game winning streak ended, and their first appearance in the Top 25 since March 2000 might be over, too. "I just wonder, 'Why are we not motivated every game?''' Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "Our guys have got to be better warriors.'' The Gophers (13-7, 5-4), a starkly different team at home than they are on the road, beat the conference's first-place team for the second consecutive Saturday. They knocked Michigan out of the top spot last weekend with an 87-80 victory at Williams Arena, where they're 12-2 this season. After a crucial loss at Ohio State on Wednesday, Monson made sure the Gophers were ready. "It's not who you play,'' Keady said, "it's when you play them.'' Willie Deane had 15 points and David Teague added 12 for the Boilermakers (15-5, 7-2), looking for their first NCAA Tournament bid in three years. They were 13-18 last year in Keady's worst of 23 seasons at the school. Gophers guard Moe Hargrow led a strong defensive effort on Deane, holding the Big Ten's third-leading scorer to two first-half points. "They did a real good job denying Will the ball,'' Teague said. "They always had somebody on him every time he caught it.'' The top two scoring teams in the conference, in their only meeting this year, had a hard time establishing any early offense -- but the Boilermakers struggled the most. Minnesota, taking a page from Purdue's gameplan, used tough, physical man-to-man defense to force the Boilermakers into 13 first-half turnovers. The Gophers finished with nine steals and nine blocked shots and held Purdue to one field goal and seven turnovers in the first seven minutes. "It wasn't just about their energy,'' Keady said. "It was about our passing decisions, too.'' Though still plagued occasionally by poor passing on the perimeter and a tendency to settle for 3-point shots instead of using their height advantage inside, the Gophers' shot selection was much better than it was Wednesday at Ohio State, when they set a school record for 3-point attempts with 36. The Boilermakers turned a 10-3 deficit into a 16-all tie, but the Gophers finished the last six minutes of the half with a 22-9 run. "They shoved us pretty good,'' Monson said, "but we shoved them for 20'' minutes. Bauer, who had a superb all-around game, was in the middle of it all. The junior forward, by far Minnesota's most energetic player, blocked Chris Booker's shot twice on the same possession, fed Ben Johnson for a pair of layups and Jerry Holman for a dunk during that stretch. Johnson had 15 points and Holman added 12. The Gophers, who came in averaging a Big Ten-best 76.4 points per game, are 11-1 when leading at halftime and were charged up coming out of the break after limiting Purdue to a season-low 25 points in the first half. After a 3-pointer by Rickert, Bauer turned a steal into a long pass to Hargrow for a fast-break dunk and a 48-30 lead with 16:24 left. Minnesota pulled ahead by 22, on a 3-pointer by Bauer that made it 54-32, before briefly losing its focus and letting Purdue back in the game with a 12-2 run. But Bauer, again, helped spark his team. He found Rickert for consecutive baskets sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Teague. Bauer followed with a 3-pointer to bump the lead to 62-47 near the midpoint of the second half. "I know we have that in us,'' Bauer said. "We've been showing it in parts of this year. Our aggressiveness just carried us over.''
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