Gophers hang tough with Syracuse, fall short in Maui

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The Gophers played inspired basketball in their opening game of the Maui Invitational against Syracuse, going blow-for-blow with the No. 8 team in the country.

But in the end, Minnesota fell short, going down to the Orange 75-67.

The Gophers were down just three at halftime after 10 lead changes in the first session, but fell behind 52-38 to begin the second half.

Refusing to fold, Minnesota got back-to-back threes as part of a 14-4 run to cut Syracuse' lead to four. The teams would exchange baskets until Minnesota cut the lead to 67-65 with two minutes left and a chance to tie.

They could not however, as Malik Smith turned it over, and the Orange finished the game on an 8-2 run.

The Gophers played only seven men in a game that held a breakneck pace in the first half, with only Joey King, returning from a broken jaw, and Smith coming off the bench.

Smith led the Gophers with 16 off the bench, while Andre Hollins added 14 on 5-of-13 from the field.

ACC Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 16 while also pulling down 10 rebounds.

The Gophers face Arkansas in the losers bracket of the tournament tomorrow at 2 p.m.

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