The 1993-1994 Gophers seemed like a team of destiny. One year after winning the NIT, and returning every player from that team, the Gophers started the season as the #10 team in the country, and seemed destined to be one of the great Gopher teams of all time. But with one bad half in the middle of March, they would have to settle with being one of the more memorable teams that played the most memorable season in a couple of decades. It was also the last time the Gophers played Louisville.
The 1993-1994 team marked the midway point between the late 1980’s when the Gophers made deep runs into the NCAA tournament, and the 1997 team that made it to the final four. Ernest Nzigamazabo and Ariel McDonald played on the
1989-1990 team that came within two points of the final four. Both graduated in 1994. John Thomas and Trevor Winter started their Gopher careers in 1993 and ended their careers at the final four.
Joining those four were a whole host of Gophers whose names should still bring back plenty of good memories. Hosea Crittenden was everyone’s favorite player who never played. Voshon Lenard was well on his way to becoming Minnesota’s all time leading scorer. Jayson Walton didn’t let his arthritic knees and small size keep him from being one of the best rebounders in the Big Ten. Randy Carter used brute strength and his gold tooth more than a few games. Chad Kolander made over-sized farm boys all over
southern Minnesota proud. David Grim and Ryan Wolf drove opponents and Gopher fans crazy with their streaky shooting. Townsend Orr always seemed to be on a hot streak. It was only fitting that this memorable group played some incredibly memorable games.
Early in the Big Ten season they blew out the Badgers, ranked #12 at the time, by 37 points. In the blow out, one of many during that season, Arriel McDonald had 12 points and a team record 16 assists in 31 minutes.
In January the Gophers blew out St. John’s, back when St. John’s was worth beating by 28 points on national TV. Voshon Lenard scored 27, but Trevor Winter, all seven gangly feet of him, hit a buzzer beating three points
A few weeks later, the Gophers destroyed Northwestern, and whatever reputation Northwestern’s coach Ricky Birdsong had at the time. After receiving a technical, and claiming he was afraid of picking being ejected, Birdsong ejected himself and spent most of the game wandering around Williams Arena, high-fiving fans, and stealing people’s seats. After an usher ejected Birdsong from the crowd, he returned to the bench.
Two games later the Gophers blew out Wisconsin again by a score of 109-72. It was the most points the Gophers have ever scored on the road.
Hosea Crittenden night was next when the Gophers played Penn State. In Rudy-like fashion, Crittenden made a three pointer, but sadly was not carried off the court.
After disappointing losses to Michigan and Michigan State, Clem Haskins challenged his starters to step up, and they did against Indiana. Even with Indiana’s considerable woes this season, the Gopher’s won’t be winning by 50 points like they did that season when they beat the 12 ranked Hoosiers, once again on national TV.
To end the regular season, the Gophers took on the Iowa Hawkeyes, and in a fashion fitting the season up to that point, Minnesota won in a triple over time 107-96 behind 38 points from Voshon Lenard. Iowa was dreadful that season, but the win sealed a trip back to the NCAA tournament.
In the NCAA tournament they handled Southern Illinois relatively easily, and played third-seeded Louisville in Sacramento, California for a trip to the Sweet 16. That’s where the season ended, and where my memories ended. I never saw
the game. I had to go to my uncle’s house, and the last game of the most memorable season is still a blur.
But I didn’t write all that just to mention an unfortunate gap in my Gopher fandom, but to help me, and perhaps you get it back.
Louisville escapes 60-55 behind stingy defense
March 21, 1994 USA Today
David Leon Moore
How did Louisville beat Minnesota 60-55 Sunday to advance to next week’s NCAA West Regional semifinals?
First, let’s count the ways the Cardinals didn’t win:
— They went almost 10 minutes without scoring in one first-half stretch.
— Their best player, 6-9 center Cliff Rozier, scored two points.
— They shot 41% for the game.
Morton, a 6-6 senior swingman, made all seven of his shots from the field, including five three-pointers, and made seven of eight free throws.
Then the teams traded the lead until Morton hit a three-pointer that gave the Cards a 56-55 lead with 1: 24 left.
With a chance to gain the lead, Gopher guard Arriel McDonald missed two free throws with 51 seconds left.
After Morton hit two free throws for a 58-55 Louisville lead with 50 seconds left, the Gophers’ big gun, guard Voshon Lenard (20 points) missed a three-pointer. Minnesota got the rebound and Lenard started to shoot another three-pointer but decided to pass instead. His pass went out of bounds.
THREES PROVE QUITE CHARMING FOR LOUISVILLE MORTON TIES REGIONAL 3-POINT RECORD, HELPS ELIMINATE MINNESOTA
They say disasters come in threes, and Louisville’s Dwayne Morton proved that to Minnesota as the Cardinals won 60-55 Sunday to advance to the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.
Morton tied a NCAA regional record by shooting 5 for 5 from three-point range and led both teams with 26 points, including the game-winning basket. Louisville had 11 three-pointers.
Morton finished 7 for 7 from the field and didn’t miss a shot until a free throw in the closing seconds.
“There was only one guy on our team who played as well as he was capable of playing, that was Dwayne,” said Louisville coach Denny Crum.
Third-seeded Louisville (28-5) will play Arizona (27-5) in Los Angeles in their second consecutive appearance among the final 16 teams.
“I think there’s a lot of great teams out there,” said Crum. “There wasn’t any team who went through the year unscathed. There’s just so much balance. Everybody’s got good players, I mean everybody does. Anybody left has a legitimate chance to win it.”
The seesaw game had numerous lead changes and featured a combined 19 three-point shots.
Morton’s final three-pointer gave Louisville the lead for good at 56-55 with 1 minute 20 seconds left, and his two free throws iced the victory.
Voshon Lenard led No. 6-seeded Minnesota (21-12) with 20 points,including four three-pointers.
With All-American and leading scorer Clifford Rozier being double- and triple-teamed, Crum ordered the offense redirected toward Morton, who averaged 14.9 points during the season. A senior from Louisville, Morton scored just 11 points and hit 3 of 10 in the first round against Boise State.
Crum said he told Rozier at the half of Sunday’s game that he needed to pass the ball outside if Louisville was to score against Minnesota’s tough defense.
“Today was just my day,” Morton said. “I had to step up and be assertive.”
Jason Osborne was second among Louisville scorers with nine points.
The game featured 11 three-pointers by Louisville and eight by Minnesota. The Cardinals set the tone by sinking three-pointers for their first two baskets.
Minnesota coach Clem Haskins said he was proud of his team, even though the Golden Gophers blew a 34-22 halftime lead and shot just 32 percent with 21 points in the second half.
“Leads in the college game today are not safe,” Haskins said. “With the three-pointers, you’ve got to play for a full 40 minutes.”
Minnesota shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, then hit only 8 of 25 in the second as Louisville intensified its pressure.
“We didn’t show a lot of patience,” Haskins said of the second half. “We had our opportunities to win the game.”
Lenard missed two 3-point attempts in the final seconds as the Gophers scrambled to catch up.
“We only gave up 60 points tonight,” Haskins said in praise of his team’s defensive effort. “We just couldn’t score ourselves.”
Morton tied the regional record for 3-point shooting accuracy shared by Hubert Davis of North Carolina in 1991 and Jamal Mashburn of Kentucky in 1993.
David Grim added 14 points for Minnesota, 12 in the first half.
Louisville stops Gophers short of 16 // Second-half slide brings end to Minnesota season; [METRO Edition]
For 20 minutes Sunday the Gophers played with an intensity level that seemed destined to take them into the third round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But on this day intensity would not be enough, primarily because Louisville competed with the same emotional fervor as the Gophers over the final 20 minutes.
Minnesota’s season came to an end with a 60-55 loss to Louisville, which overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to advance to a Sweet 16 game Thursday against Arizona in the West Regional. The intensity that has been the trademark of Minnesota’s play under Clem Haskins came spilling over at the end.
The Gophers’ locker room was a place of tears and red faces, a place where players tried to come to grips with a stinging defeat. And down an adjoining hall, Louisville players fully understood the Gophers’ sorrow.
“This is a game that Minnesota deserved to win,” said Louisville junior Clifford Rozier. “They played perfectly, until the last 5 minutes. And then we kind of stole it from them.”
This was a game the Gophers lost despite holding Rozier, Louisville’s leading scorer with a 19.0 average, to just two points. Arriel McDonald – 19-for-19 from the free-throw line in six previous games – missed his only two free-throw attempts with the Gophers trailing by one point with 51.3 seconds to play.
Voshon Lenard, who hit three three-pointers and scored 12 points in the final 9:05, passed up an open three-pointer with 21.4 seconds to play and the Gophers down by three points. Lenard had misfired on a three-pointer, but he got an immediate return pass from Randy Carter on the offensive rebound. Lenard jumped in the air, but instead of shooting, tried to hit Chad Kolander inside. The pass sailed out of bounds, carrying with it Minnesota’s final hopes for a comeback. “Arriel is the guy I want at the free-throw line – an 80 percent shooter – and I want Voshon shooting the three,” Haskins said. “We had Arriel at the line, and Voshon had good looks at the three. We had our chances.”
Greg Minor hit one of two free throws with 19.1 seconds remaining, increasing Louisville’s lead to 59-55. Near midcourt after the ensuing inbounds pass, James Osborne sneaked behind McDonald and poked the ball ahead, into the waiting hands of Rozier, with 15 seconds left.
A season that began with high expectations – a No. 10 rating in the preseason Associated Press national poll and numerous predictions of a Big Ten title – was over. The Gophers finished 21-12, a No. 6 seed losing to the third-seeded Cardinals.
A Minnesota victory would have been an upset, since the Gophers played without starting forward Jayson Walton, who suffered a sprained ankle in Friday’s first-round victory over Southern Illinois. But coming close, even without Walton, wasn’t enough. “Just when you think everything is going to start going well, the tables turn,” McDonald said.
Oh, how the tables turned in this game. The Gophers looked to have the Cardinals in a stranglehold at halftime. Minnesota built a 34-22 lead on the strength of a 14-0 run and a pressure defense that held the Cardinals scoreless for 9:28, and without a field goal for 10:53. David Grim scored 10 points in the first 4:20.
But in the early stages of the second half, it was Louisville’s pressure defense that turned the tables. The Cardinals forced three turnovers in the first 3 minutes of the second half, scoring seven straight points to close within 34-29. Louisville took its first lead – 40-38 – since the opening minutes on a drive by Minor with 10: 18 remaining.
Minnesota’s fate can be traced statistically to two sources: 17 second-half fouls against Minnesota to six against Louisville, and the Gophers’ offensive ineptness in the first 10:55 of the final half. The Gophers, who had shot 50 percent (14-for-28) in the first half, hit just two of 14 shots and scored only four points during that span, en route to a season-low scoring total.
“We looked at the most critical part of the ballgame as being the first 5 minutes of the second half,” Chad Kolander said. “But they came out with fire in their eyes, and got themselves back in the ballgame.” But there was more than intensity to the Cardinals’ second-half comeback. Rozier was 1-for-5 from the field and had two points at the half, thanks to a Minnesota defense that had two, three and sometimes four defenders collapsing on the 6-9 junior.
Rozier said Louisville coach Denny Crum practically begged him to pass the ball back to the perimeter in the second half. “He said, `Son, we can’t win wth you trying for force things,’ ” Rozier said.
Crum’s pleas were not ignored. Rozier did not take a shot in the second half and the Cardinals hit 11 of 24 three-point attempts.
“We’ve had some tough losses where we’ve hung our heads and were angry with ourselves,” Townsend Orr said. “This one, it was more like disbelief. It’s tough to accept.”
GOPHERS ARE HALF BAD, ALL DONE MORTON TAKES OVER, ERASES DEFICIT OF 13
St. Paul Pioneer Press
From a University of Minnesota perspective, it was a complete collapse.
For Louisville, it was a an astonishing second-half comeback, sparked single-handedly by Dwayne Morton. Minnesota had surged ahead by 13 points in the first half and held a 12-point lead at intermission Sunday before Louisville escaped with a berth in the NCAA’s Sweet 16.
Morton’s terminatorlike performance brought Louisville back from the dead as the Cardinals eliminated the Gophers 60-55 in a second-round match at ARCO Arena.
A 6-foot-6 shooting guard who grew up a couple of miles from the Louisville campus, Morton had one of the more remarkable performances in this NCAA tournament. Although he took only seven shots all afternoon, Morton made all seven, including 5 of 5 from three-point range. He didn’t miss anything except a free throw with one second to go en route to a 26-point afternoon.
“Today was just my day,” Morton said. “I was feeling real good and I had to step up and be assertive.”
Morton, a senior who passed the 1,400-point plateau in Sunday’s game, had to elevate his game because his teammates had a disastrous day. Throw out Morton’s shooting, and Louisville made just 9 of 32 from the field and 10 of 21 free throws.
Not only that, the Gophers held Cardinals star center Clifford Rozier to just two points, though he did collect nine rebounds. It was only the third time all season Rozier – who in 23 of the Cardinals’ previous 32 games had double-doubles (points and rebounds) – had not scored in double figures.
Outside of Morton, no player scored in double figures for the Cardinals (28-5), who advanced to Thursday’s West Regional semifinals against Arizona.
How did the Gophers spell defeat?
They made only 8 of 25 second-half shots (32 percent).
They made only four points in the first 10:48 of the second half and were outscored 17-4 during that time.
They scored only 21 points in the second half, their worst point total in any half all season.
They virtually abandoned forward David Grim, their hottest player in the first half with 14 points, after intermission.
Arriel McDonald missed two critical free throws with 51 seconds to go and his team trailing 56-55.
They had the ball stripped twice in the final 45 seconds.
In the final seconds, his team trailing by three, Voshon Lenard’s three-pointer missed the mark, and, after the ball was passed back to Lenard, he crossed up everybody by rifling a pass toward Chad Kolander underneath. Kolander, battling a Louisville player for position, didn’t see the ball until it sailed past his head and out of bounds.
“We had our opportunities, and when you get them, you have to cash in,” Minnesota coach Clem Haskins said. “We didn’t, and Louisville, led by Morton, did. He had hands in his face all day. Sometimes you have to give people credit for scoring.”
The Gophers had only one player elevate his game after intermission as Lenard scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half. But, other than Lenard, the Gophers scored a collective seven points after halftime as the players seemed to freeze up.
“Obviously, I’m very proud of how my team came back,” said Louisville coach Denny Crum. “We can’t dictate what the other team is going to do, but I think our players handled the pressure real well. I’m not sure we did anything special down the stretch.
“We just converted our chances.”
And the Gophers did not as they finished with a 21-12 record in a season that started full of promise.
“We came out in the second half and just played bad,” Haskins said. “Morton made great shots and, still, we had a chance in the final minutes to take command again.
“I guess this is an example of college basketball today – leads aren’t safe. When Kentucky can come back from 30 points down in the second half, no lead is safe with the three-pointer. You have to play a full 40 minutes.”
Minnesota played a superb 20 minutes Sunday. It was the wrong 20.
To this day I have no doubt that the 1993-1994 Minnesota Gophers had the talent to win the national championship. Two free throws, an extra basket, who knows what else, and the Gophers would have been on their way to being remembered as the best team at the University of Minnesota in a generation. But maybe its fitting that I don’t remember it, because it never happened. The 1993-1994 season was the first of six seasons to be wiped away by the NCAA.
All photos are from the great book “Gopher Glory” that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Minnesota Basketball.