LINCOLN, Neb. -- Two seasons ago, the Minnesota Gophers were being obliterated by nearly 40 points in the second half at Nebraska. Just to keep from running up the score, Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles played mostly his reserves for the last five minutes of the game in a 25-point win.
Richard Pitino's team has come a long way since then.
Three starters from that embarrassing game in Lincoln in 2016 were still leading the No. 14 Gophers on Tuesday night. And they were humbled again in Minnesota's fifth straight loss at Nebraska, 78-68, at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
For a team with aspirations of competing with Michigan State for a Big Ten title, the Gophers squandered an opportunity to get that always difficult conference road win. There typically aren't many venues where you can steal a game.
Michigan State played a tight game with Rutgers on Tuesday, but it eventually pulled out a 10-point victory in New Jersey. The Spartans are 2-0 to end the early start to conference play, which included a 29-point win against Nebraska in East Lansing, Mich.
The Gophers are definitely not in an early hole at 1-1 in the Big Ten standings, but they have lost two of their past three games after a 7-0 start, including last week against Miami (Fla.) at home.
Minnesota's loss to the Hurricanes was excusable against a top-10 team and with starting guard Dupree McBrayer out with a leg infection. McBrayer was back in the lineup for the second straight game Tuesday, but he struggled along with everyone else.
After trailing 5-0 to start the game, the Gophers briefly took a two-point lead around the 12-minute mark, but they were chasing the rest of the way. Murphy went to the bench seven minutes into the first half after falling hard for a loose ball. He wasn't the same picking up a second foul after returning with little impact.
After being called one of the candidate for national player of the year, Murphy came down to earth Tuesday, although he still got his 10th double-double. The Big Ten's leading scorer and rebounder finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
After Mason cut it to 34-31 with under a minute left in the first half, Nebraska outscored Minnesota 14-1 going into halftime and to open the second half.
Glynn Watson scored eight straight points and Duby Okeke's dunk gave the Cornhuskers a 48-32 advantage at 15:23.
Murphy's putback cut it to a 13-point deficit at the 10-minute mark, but Nebraska had an answer to every comeback attempt. Anton Gill's three-point play extended it to 63-46 with 7:18 remaining.
The Gophers relied on their offense to be ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation after wins against Providence and Alabama, but they somehow lost the defensive identity that made them so tough to beat last season.
Nebraska shot nearly 60 percent in the second half Tuesday and won the rebounding battle.
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