Playing on a neutral court in an empty building, the Gophers won by their largest margin since 1990 and allowed the fewest points since 1951 (when, needless to say, the game was much, much different and the shorts were much, much shorter) as they defeated Nicholls State 77-32.
I’d love to be able to write about subtle nuisances, key plays that others might have missed, and an update on Ryan Saunders (who must have looked extra flashy, since he no doubt went right to the casino after the game). Of course, I can’t really, because the game wasn’t on TV and I’m definitely not walking down the strip drinking a 3 foot tall margarita (or a yardarita if you will). I was able to watch the game, kind of. There was a pretty snazzy game tracker on the Nicholls State website, easily the best I have ever seen, that at the very least is more entertaining than watching numbers change ever few seconds. You can check it out here (if the link still works), and actually watch two dimensional cone-like shapes re-enact the game for you. Look what you have done to us Comcast!
The 32 points given up by the Gophers is the fewest since they lost to Indiana 32-26 in 1951, and even then, that was the fewest points, by large margin, given up that season (the next fewest was 41 in a win over Nebraska). Along with the 32 points, the box score is filled with some eye popping number. Nicholls State turned the ball over 30 times, shot 25% from the floor, 19% on three pointers, and 50% from the line. Despite missing 33 shots, they managed only 8 offensive rebounds.
The Gophers played well (obviously), shooting 53% from the floor and 39% behind the line. They rebounded well, with one more offensive rebound than Nicholls State despite missing 10 fewer shots. On the defensive end, the numbers speak for themselves, except this one: Tubby Smith doesn’t remember a game when one of his teams had more deflections (actually an anecdote, so sue me).
Now before you get so excited that you raid your Champagne stash a few days early because the Gophers destroyed the same Nicholls State team that didn’t embarrass themselves against North Carolina, please keep a few things in perspective. Nicholls State isn’t very good. Any team that belongs in Division I will make 30% of their shots, or at least stop shooting 3’s when their percentage drops to 20%. Nicholls state apparently spent 12 hours on a plane, including circling the Las Vegas airport for so long that they missed their practice before the game. At least the Nicholls State athletic department can expect a refund, which may be the best thing to happen to a Nicholls State team in a long time.
The most interesting thing about the game is that the Gophers should have won by more, a lot more. They turned the ball over an inexplicable 20 times, which Nicholls State turned into 15 points. Damian Johnson led the turnover barage with 5, but with Damian, he probably forced at least that many turnovers, so he broke even (always a good goal to have in Vegas).
So what does this all mean? In contrast to PJS, I don’t think it means all that much, except the Gophers are able to beat up on cupcakes once again. Given the state of the program the last few years, this is a very positive development. However, this says a lot more about how bad the team was under former coach Dan Monson, and less about how good they currently are. This could all change in the next few weeks. If the Gopher beat UNLV on Sunday and play Michigan State close next Saturday, get out the Champagne, maybe even a little absinthe (its green after all) because this will be an even more fun season that it has already been.
And the gold uniforms are back! Its about time.
Who did what
- Dan Coleman played well again, and keeps playing close to the basket (only one three point attempt. He finished with 14 points 6 rebounds, one chipped tooth, and several stitches (he ran into Al Nolen in practice, and appears to have gotten the worst of it.) I can only hope that he gets a gold tooth and starts to rebound like Randy Carter.
- Spencer Tollackson apparently faced double and triple teams most of the night, and his numbers reflect the defensive attention he received. He scored six points but pulled down 5 rebounds (second most for the team).
- Lawrence McKenzie continued to trade assists for points. Last night he decided that he wanted points (he led the team with 16) and decided that assists weren’t really his thing (only 2).
- Lawrence Westbrook may be shooting his way out of a slump. He had 11 points on 5-8 shooting.
- Jamal Abu-Shamala may be shooting himself further into a slump. He was 0-4 shooting and missed both free throw attempts.
- Al Nolen, probably sporting a sizable bump on his head, missed a dunk, made a dunk, and led the team with 5 steals. In typical fashion, he had 4 assists and only one turnover.
- Kevin Peyton had more turnovers (2) than shots made or attempted (1 each).
- Travis Busch is back and better than ever. He made everything (1 two, 1 three, and both free throws) to finish with 6 points. Welcome back!
- Jonathan Williams loves to send people to the line, and hates to make free throws. This is not a good combinatio.
- Blake Hoffarer recovered from his woeful shooting against Santa Clara and scored 13 points on 4-7 shooting, including 2-4 three pointers.
- Damian Johnson had 5 turnover, but scored 5, had a block, 2 steals, and 2 assits. This is pretty good for a bad night.
- Ryan Saunders hopefully dressed like Nick Papageorgio.