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Gophers coach Ben Johnson picked up his first technical of the season Wednesday night, furiously pleading his case after Rutgers big man Clifford Omoruyi appeared to push Pharrel Payne in the back on a rebound to open the second half.

The Scarlet Knights not having their leading scorer and rebounder on the floor because of foul trouble would not have mattered much that night, though. Johnson's frustration clearly boiled over from other areas that led to the U's abysmal 90-55 loss in Piscataway, N.J.

The Gophers (7-14, 1-10 Big Ten), who host Maryland on Saturday, played without their leading scorer and rebounder Dawson Garcia for the third straight game. But Johnson said that was no excuse for the disturbing lack of competitive fight and execution in the end, especially defensively.

Rutgers had its largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game while shooting 60%. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Gophers since a 36-point loss at Indiana in 2001. They also had not allowed any opponent to shoot better than 59% in a game since 2015.

"We were willing to give up some stuff in our zone," Johnson said postgame to local reporters. "They did a good job capitalizing, whether it was with the post up, the drive or different stuff they did within their zone offense. We did not respond well to that, especially in the second half."

Here are four takeaways from the loss:

Defensive drop off

Rutgers' historic night offensively Wednesday against the Gophers included setting a team Big Ten record with 30 assists that led to six players scoring in double figures.

The Scarlet Knights shot 66% in the second half while drilling seven of their 10 three-pointers in the game. But their dominance getting 46 points in the paint on layups and post touches made the Gophers' 2-3 zone defense extremely vulnerable for the second straight game.

On Saturday, the Gophers fell 81-61 at Northwestern after allowing the Wildcats to shoot 52% from the field, which included 36 points in the paint and nine three-pointers.

The only way Johnson's team can compete in Big Ten games this season is by defending at a high level. The best examples were holding opponents to well below their average field goal shooting in games at Ohio State (38%), and Michigan (37%) and Indiana (41%) at home.

Garcia's health

The Gophers were the worst offensive team in the Big Ten with Garcia, who leads them with 14.9 points per game this season. But they were facing the league's top defense without him Wednesday, so not surprisingly there were even more issues limiting lengthy scoring droughts.

The 6-11 North Carolina transfer practiced this week and participated in the shootaround earlier Wednesday, but he was ruled out again with a bone bruise on his right foot. His availability Saturday for the game against Maryland at home is also uncertain.

"It was close," Johnson said. "He wants to play. He prepared to play. It was a decision that we made last minute that I'm not going to put him in jeopardy if he's not confident in it. If he's not able to give us good minutes, it's not fair to him."

Ola-Joseph steps up

Former Osseo standout and AZ Compass Prep forward Joshua Ola-Joseph was the least heralded of the three incoming freshmen from Minnesota, but he has made the biggest improvement this year.

That was on display Wednesday with Ola-Joseph's season-high 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting and eight rebounds in 39 minutes. Part of the reason he has been able to make strides is because his role has been the most defined of the freshmen.

Ola-Joseph, who averages 7.3 points and 3.1 rebounds, has started the last 14 games for the Gophers. Meanwhile, freshman big man Pharrel Payne started for the first time in the last two games coming off concussion protocol. Freshman guard Jaden Henley, who started the first nine games this season, has seen his playing time fluctuate during Big Ten play off the bench. Another freshman guard Braeden Carrington is sidelined with a leg injury.

"You just kind of want to throw them in the fire," Johnson said postgame. "Hopefully, they get better through experience. Josh has progressively grown as the season has gone on. He is figuring out how to compete and play with the kind of energy that's needed. That is obviously a good sign. Now we need the other guys to kind of follow suit."

Three-point struggles

Last season, the Gophers had a plethora of issues that led to a last-place finish in the Big Ten, but three-point shooting was rarely one of them.

In 2020-21, senior guards Payton Willis, Luke Loewe and E.J. Stephens helped Minnesota rank third in the Big Ten shooting 36.8% from beyond the arc. Willis even led the conference at 42.8% from deep.

Johnson's replacement for Willis is junior Ta'Lon Cooper, who had 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Wednesday, but he shot just 2-for-8 from three. And he's been the U's top three-point shooter this season (39.7%).

With Willis and company lost to graduation, the Gophers outside shooting has now become a major problem. They rank last in the Big Ten in conference games at 28.9% from three, which has gotten even worse lately.

During their current six-game losing streak, the Gophers are shooting a horrid 22.8% from beyond the arc (26-for-114), which included 5-for-25 Wednesday at Rutgers.