The Minnesota Gophers lost to the Syracuse Orange in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday, 75-67. Despite the loss, Minnesota made a valiant effort against the No. 8 team in the country, coming as close as four points of the tie late in the second half.
Senior guard Malik Smith came off the bench to lead the Gophers in scoring with 16 points, but his turnover with under two minutes remaining sealed the game for the Orange, who now improve to 5-0 on the season and will play California on Tuesday in the second round of the tournament.
Despite being undersized, Minnesota played as well as they could with what they had before foul troubles stifled a comeback for the Gophers, who were at one point down by as many as 14 points in the second half.
Sophomore forward Joey King returned to the floor after undergoing jaw surgery this past week to score nine points and grab five rebounds, but fouled out near the end of the game. The Drake transfer and first year Gopher played fearlessly despite getting knocked in the face several times during the game. He was reportedly throwing up during a second half intermission.
Junior center Elliot Eliason also had a big game in the front court — he had five blocks and nine rebounds but was hit with foul trouble early. His play in the paint kept the Gophers close, but ultimately not enough to squeak out an upset.
Minnesota desperately missed center Mo Walker, who sat his the final game of his six-game suspension against the Orange. He’ll be eligible to play tomorrow against Arkansas at 12 p.m. CT.
- Head coach Richard Pitino, in his first game coaching against an ACC opponent, only played two bench players — Joey King and Malik Smith. The bench duo added 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
- Syracuse’s best player, senior forward C.J. Fair, had the game’s only double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. His second half play kept the Orange in control of the lead.