When you play well can sometimes be more important than how well you play. In Minnesota’s two games against Indiana this season, they played better than the Hoosiers for 70 of 80 minutes. Unfortunately, the last two minutes in Minneapolis and the final 8 minutes in Bloomington last night were more than enough to give Indiana a season sweep over the Gophers.
Minnesota and Indiana played a very even first half. Both teams struggled to score. Minnesota’s defense was especially successful in the early going at forcing Indiana to take long three pointers. Dan Coleman, often maligned for his lack of aggression and rightly so, may have had the defensive play of the year in the conference with his block on Indiana guard Armon Bassett. On the offensive end, Coleman was every where along with Lawrence McKenzie, who decided to make more than his typical cameo appearance in the first half. Unfortunately, the senior duo’s stellar play was overshadowed by another long buzzer beater, this time from D.J. White, who made the first three pointer of his career.
Unlike last week against Purdue, when E’Twan Moore hit an equally baffling buzzer beater at the end of the first half, Indiana was unable to capitalize off of any momentum the shot may have created. Minnesota quickly erased a 4 point deficit on a free throw by Lawrence McKenzie and one of Dan Coleman’s two three pointers (anyone else remember when he would put up about 5 each game?). Indiana was once again able to pull ahead by 7, but a lay up and a three pointer by McKenzie and a dunk by Jonathan Williams, who once again played a solid game. Another three by McKenzie and a lay-up by Coleman and suddenly the Gophers had the lead, a lead that would last about 5 seconds.
Just as Minnesota looked to have Indiana on the ropes, or at the very least looking like they could keep it close the very end, the free throw parade began. From eight minute mark on, Eric Gordon, who is obviously much quicker than anyone Gopher defender, made eight free throws. During the last 8 minutes of the game, the entire Gopher team scored 8 points. Many of the fouls were legitimate, some were a bit dicey, but none of them did anything to prevent Minnesota from barely managing a point per minute during the most important eight minutes of the game.
Who did what?
- It may not have been his best game of the season, but Dan Coleman played his most obvious game of the season. He was blocking shots, rebounding, scoring on occasion. Sure he didn’t smile, grit his teeth, frown, flare his nostrils, or do anything that would indicate that he is capable of emotion, but he finally played how Gopher fans have been clamoring for him to play for years. He finished with 16 points, 3 very impressive blocks, and 8 rebounds.
- Spencer Tollackson had the worst game of his career. He allegedly sprained a thumb on Tuesday, but it is doubtful he would have started if injured digit was the real reason for his woefulness. In 11 minutes, he didn’t score and had one rebound. Apparently an injured thumb makes rebounding, playing defense, or even being on the correct side of the floor impossible.
- Lawrence McKenzie had a fearless shooting night, and most of the time it worked out. Whether hitting shots in transition or long 3’s off of equally long rebounds with the shot clock expiring, the Lawrence of old is back. Given the Gophers lack of offensive punch, this isn’t actually too bad. He scored a game high 22, but his 6-11 shooting hurt the Gophers chances of building a lead or keeping it close towards the end.
- Indiana’s guards struggled from the floor, and Lawrence Westbrook had a lot do with it. His offensive numbers weren’t spectacular (8 points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers) but he played more point guard last night than he has all season, and was fairly competent.
- Jamal Abu-Shamala once again started both halves, and used his limited playing time to show that he doesn’t belong on the court.
- Al Nolen had 3 assists and two turnovers, but the turnovers came at bad times and were blatantly bone-headed mistakes.
- No one would confuse Jonathan Williams for being anything resembling smooth, but his herky-jerky up and under move as the shot clock expired in the first half was nearly a thing of beauty. He scored 6 points, but only rebounded twice as well as Tollackson.
- Blake Hoffarber forgot how to shoot.
- Damian Johnson scored 5 points, including a three pointer, and added 2 blocks and a steal.