JF
Flailing

Flailing

It was slow, boring, brutal to watch, excruciatingly painful, unrecognizable as basketball since 1920, but it was a win. In a dreadfully stereotypical Big Ten game, the Gophers won 52-49 to improve to 14-1 and 2-1 in the Big Ten.

In short, it was a game at Iowa. Its hard to believe that Iowa used to be one of the highest scoring offenses in the country. Now, you’d have to look long and hard to find anything resembling offense. Thursday’s game was the second time this season that Iowa failed to crack the half century mark, and the eighth game they have held an opponents to 55 or fewer points. Minnesota’s 52 points might as well be considered an offensive explosion. Last season, a much worse Iowa team held then #20 Michigan State to 36 points, and somehow only won by seven. Minnesota’s win may have set basketball back to the pre-raised floor era Williams Arena, but it pushed them towards an NCAA tournament appearance.

The final score gives you an idea of how bad it was, but in no way does it justice. The Gophers shot 34% from the field, and 22.7% from behind the three point line. Two point shooting clocked in at a measly 41% including eight missed layups. The total number of misses for allegedly easy baskets would be much higher. Minnesota went on a seven minute scoring drought in the first half. Iowa went on an eight minute scoring drought in the second half and an almost inconceivable twelve minutes without a field goal. That is right, one-fourth of the game without making a basket. Its actually not hard to do with an offense as bad as theirs, especially when they committed turnovers on 29% of their possessions. Despite all that, it still took a Cornell in slow motion run, and a near collapse for the Gophers to pull this one off.

Minnesota started their hopefully soon forgotten Twin Towers starting line up, and were able to play the Hawkeyes evenly for the first eight or so minutes. The Gophers had a massive height advantage, but didn’t utilize it, settling for outside shots from Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook. The only noticeable impact that Minnesota’s interior freshman did have was on defense, it not in a good way. Time after time Ralph Sampson III found himself at the top of Minnesota’s press, and if Iowa didn’t get a lay up, he was chasing around Iowa’s second leading scorer, Matt Gatens, who is half a foot shorter than Sampson III. The defensive disadvantage should have more than been made up for on the offensive end, and Sampson III did have his moments, shooting 60% for the game, but he only took six shots. Colton Iverson only took one. Instead of pounding the ball inside it was a comedy of errors as the two seven footers tried to toss alley-oops, failed to communicate, and generally did themselves in.

With a flailing defense and a stagnant offense, Tubby Smith tried, and failed again to jump start the offense with five new players. Things got worse when Jamal Abu-Shamala, Devron Bostick, Devoe Joseph, Jonathan Williams, and Travis Busch came in, and the Gophers stayed stuck at 10 points until the five minute mark in the second half. The last five minutes of the half featured a furious rally (at least for this game by both teams). The Gophers had cut what was once a 13 point deficit to six, and there was at least hope, for all things but offense.

Iowa found themselves in a bind. Cyrus Tate, their only real post player, went down with a sprained ankle mid-way through the first half, and were left with five guards. With Minnesota’s defense unable to keep up with the smaller players, they began zoning as well as switching on every screen. It was a move made out of pure desperation that worked. Suddenly Iowa looked like the Gophers from the first half, and Minnesota stormed back led by Paul Carter and Devron Bostick, to eventually take a seven point lead. This stretch was classic small ball, with Travis Busch playing something that resembled center. Iowa should have been able to take advantage of their considerable quickness advantage, but, stubbornly perhaps, they refused to change their strategy.

The Gophers should have had the game locked up, up six with 24 seconds to play, but Al Nolen missed two free throws with eleven seconds left, Jeff Peterson hit a three pointer (almost making up for his eight turnovers). After two clutch Lawrence Westbrook free throws, Jake Kelly had a chance to win it. I expected some sort of torturous outcome, as the Gophers had no business winning, but Kelly inexplicable heaved a half court shot with easily enough time for two more dribbles and to get ten feet closer to the basket. His shot missed, and the Gophers escaped.

There really are no words to describe how ugly it was, and I won’t even try. Really, its a game I would rather forget, except the final score. The Gophers just shouldn’t have won.

Al Nolen’s missed free throws should have done the Gophers in. Failing to utilize a height advantage that varied between six inches and one foot should have disqualified the Gophers from winning.  Making a field goal once every two minutes and averaging only .94 points per possession should have relegated the Gophers to the MIAC, but Big Ten road wins are not supposed to be easy.

The Gophers did of course do somethings well. The smaller line, led by Travis Busch and the two JuCo transfer provided a huge boost. This was the type of game I have no problem with Busch playing major minutes. He wasn’t giving up a size advantage, and no one was showing they could do any better. Paul Carter brought energy as he always does. Devron Bostick showed as of yet unseen passing skills that opened up scoring opportunities. The big factor though was rebounding, especially on the offensive end.  The Gophers pulled in sixteen offensive rebounds, and combined with their turnover advantage resulted in fourteen more shots than the Hawkeyes. With no one making anything, the Gophers proved that if you throw the ball in the general direction of the basket more time than your opponents, the odds are, more of those shots will go in.

Minnesota will obviously need to improve, or at the very least forget that the Iowa game ever happened. A performance like that will not be good enough to win another game this season. But they only had to be good enough to win the game they were playing, and it was enough to move the Gopher to a three way tied for third place in the Big Ten.

Who did what?

  • Damian Johnson disappeared again. I won’t hold his 2-8 shooting against him, no one could shoot. I won’t credit him too much for his rebounds. He was guarding people barely taller than me. I will get on him for his lack of other statisitics. His ability to play defense and his interior passing make him truly special. Last night he had no assists, no steals, and only one block.
  • Colton Iverson played only 11 minutes and took only one shot. He can’t pass the ball to himself, and his team mates rendered him useless.
  • Ralph Sampson was something close to dominant when he had the ball on the inside, but he also didn’t get the ball enough either. The Gophers need to find a way to get the ball to their big men, especially against tiny teams.
  • Al Nolen made a huge clutch three pointer with the shot clock running out to give the Gophers their biggest lead of the game. He almost undid it all with the two missed free throws. Its hard to pin the blame for a dreadful offensive performance on one player, but Al Nolen is the offensive leader for Minnesota, and he needs to get his teammates involved.
  • Lawrence Westbrook made 5-6 free throws, and single handedly averted disaster.
  • Paul Carter still can’t finish as often as I would like, but he is the only Gopher who can consistently create his own shot and who can keep the defense on their heels. His three offensive rebounds were huge, as was his put back after his own miss.
  • Travis Busch, as big as his head is (in all ways imaginable) and as unshaven as he was last night, bailed the Gophers out. His athletic (who knew?) drive to the basket 45 seconds left and clutch (really?!)  three pointers probably saved the day. For the record, I think Carter could have done the same thing, but when Busch was on the court he stepped up.
  • Devoe Joseph, welcome to Big Ten road games.
  • Jonathan Williams, please say good bye to the Big Ten.
  • Blake Hoffarber must be cursed. He missed all four three pointers he attempted, and all of them barely rimmed out. He did get some huge rebounds though, and is showing that he is much more than a spot up shooter.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala had a three pointer during a very non-descript performance.
  • Devron Bostick is starting to show flashes of what made him the JuCo player of the year. He had six points, a great assist, and a huge dunk. His minutes should continue to increase.
  • Kevin Payton didn’t play, but he probably should have. Clem Haskins used to put in Hosea Crittenden in games like this when the Gophers were not focusing on offense and were taking bad shots. Payton, at the very least, would not have taken any ill advised (if any) shots, and could have hurdled over the shorter Hawkeyes. It may not have resulted in any points, but it would have been entertaining.
  • Doug Gottlieb, who really does have too much time on his hands decided that this site was worth a mention, and I thank him for it, but why not Digger Phelps. If you’re new here, sorry for the disappointment. At least you now know not to take blog advice from the Big 12’s all time leader in assists. Though, if you have the game on tape, or better yet, recorded on your computer, let me know. Apparently 6:17 pm is a time that will live in infamy:
6:17
TheBarn:  OMG
6:17
TheBarn:  You just got a plug!
6:17
JF:  Gotlieb?
6:17
TheBarn:  Wow!
6:17
JF:  Dear god.
6:17
JF:  Well, I think I made it.
6:17
TheBarn:  that was pretty big
6:18
TheBarn:  National television
6:18
TheBarn:  mentioned you twice
6:18
[Comment From cwy]
you got a plug! Sweet
6:18
[Comment From UK Fan]
I’m here from the ESPN mention…watching Tubby
6:19
[Comment From k+]
that was sweet ive never been to this site and they just mentioned it…so now im here
6:19
[Comment From A random guy]
Congratulations, I just came here because you were mentioned on ESPN.
6:19
TheBarn:  welcome everyone
6:19
[Comment From EJ]
This is sort of ridiculous out the gate…
6:19
[Comment From Brandon]
Just found the site thanks to gottlieb, diehard gophers fan
6:19
JF:  Cyrus Tate is hurt. That helps.
6:19
TheBarn:  JF I think you’ve made the big-time now
6:19
[Comment From Brian]
What a great plug for you guys….nice site
6:19
[Comment From Guest]
Duke fan just stopped by after hearing about your site on ESPN. Very cool spot you have here. Good luck and keep up the good work.
6:19
[Comment From cyclonebee]
Congrats on the plug!
6:19
[Comment From SoCal Golden Gopher Fan]
Me too
6:19
[Comment From ben]
first time on the blog
6:20
[Comment From gopher fan in brooklyn]
thanks to espn for the plug – cool blog
6:20
[Comment From EJ]
Yep, I’m a diehard Gopher fan and just heard about it on the Deuce
6:20
A random guy:  So your hits are going to quadruple in the next 30 seconds
6:20
JF:  Well welcome everyone!
6:20
TheBarn:  He usually has some pretty good info on here guys….write ups on all the games, good previews, etc
6:20
TheBarn:  You sure your site can handle the traffic?
6:20
JF:  My apologies if this site crashes. Never had more than about 10 people on at once.
6:20
A random guy:  I’m a Big 12 (Kansas State) guy actually, just passing time until football
6:20
cwy:  You have a good blog. I’ve subcribed for a while now. Congrats on the national plug
6:20
[Comment From Guest]
just heard about the site on the duece and added it to my favorites immediately
6:20
[Comment From EJ]
We need to work the ball inside…
6:21
TheBarn:  Agreed, although the bigs haven’t finished so far
6:21
TheBarn:  Devoe has struggled pretty badly so far
6:21
A random guy:  I’ll subscribe to your feed though, I always appreciate good writing.
6:21
JF:  Now we really need to abandon the big line up.
6:21
A random guy:  That looked ugly.
6:21
[Comment From Will]
We need to get Al back in the game
6:21
[Comment From Brandon]
this is a pretty awesome site/blog. ill definetely be coming on more often
6:21
[Comment From Joe Schlabotnik]
It’s an Iowa site, for a different perspective. Not suggesting you park there
6:21
[Comment From EJ]
That’s true…
6:21
[Comment From ben]
same with me just added it to my favorites
6:21
TheBarn:  Weak flop
6:22
TheBarn:  Any other Gopher fans here?
6:22
[Comment From Brian]
very weak flop
6:22
[Comment From k+]
huge gopher fan
6:22
[Comment From Brian]
Just a big 10 fan right here
6:22
[Comment From Gopher Fan]
:)
6:22
[Comment From ben]
yep, anyone live in chicago?
6:22
[Comment From cyclonebee]
all my life
6:22
UofM Fan:  Gopher fan in Ann Arbor here
6:23
[Comment From SoCal Golden Gopher Fan]
nice site
6:23
[Comment From k+]
thats kind of an awkward place to live if your a gopher fan…ann arbor?
6:23
[Comment From Drew]
gopher fan from Chi-town here
6:23
[Comment From hawkeyebrower]
how many hawk fans now? good site….
6:23
TheBarn:  Michigan has a decent team this year, quite the come back last night
6:24
TheBarn:  The crowd always that weak at Iowa?
6:24
UofM Fan:  k+, relocated for work, trust me not a Michigan Fan!
6:24
TheBarn:  What’s Carver-Hawkeye seat…15k?
6:24
JF:  Its one of the bigger arena’s in the big ten, and nowhere to hide the empty seats.
6:24
[Comment From Mark]
where is blake H..?
6:24
[Comment From Syracusefan]
Came by due to the plug on ESPN2, great site
6:24
[Comment From Drew]
i don’t remember the crowd being this weak at Carver hawkeye

9 thoughts on “A win is a win is a win, and the Gophers won

  1. You guys have some of the best, incisive, original Gopher basketball coverage on the web (or on paper, for that matter)… I like it… that said, even though I have been a critic of Travis B. too, we need to give him more credit… obviously Tubby is seeing something in this kid… and just look at his stats… I’m not calling him Dusty Rychart, but I think he deserves his ten minutes on the court.

  2. As far as the others: Carter has huge potential, Devoe should play more (even though he will make freshman mistakes), and I still think Bostick hasn’t had an opportunity yet to show what he really has…. the big guys are a given, as long as we get the ball to them (it would, after all, open up our outside shots: read Hoffarber, who has been struggling recently)

  3. I would have really liked to see Bostick start during the non-conference season, and have Tubby let him play 30 minutes, just to see what he can do. Maybe next year?

    And did Dusty have any athletic ability?

  4. I meant Busch, Busch is like a more talented Dusty Rychart.

  5. My problem with Travis is simply that the other players are more skilled, athletic and better. In a game like we saw in Iowa City, where no one can do anything, by all means put in Busch, but he should always be a last resort.

  6. That was meant to be an insult to Rychart, not a compliment to Busch.

    It seems there will always be a role on Golden Gopher basketball squads for a non-athletic, unskilled, gritty, hustley, white boy; usually from the state. It’s Busch’s role these days, although Shamala is probably pretty pissed.

    From Bob Martin Ryan Wolf to Rob Metcalf to Dusty to Jeff Hagen to Zach Puchtel to Hair Pie, it seems there is no way to escape it.

    (I didn’t include Jim Shikenjanski in that line, mostly just to piss somebody I know off – not know personally, but have heard of. I think he has a blog like some kind of loser. shut up I’m drunk)

    • Don’t forget Kolander and Winter. Was Wolf from Minnesota? I guess that would explain why he was on the team.

  7. Pingback: Spartans Weblog » Catching Up

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