Another exhibition game, another big win, and another positive development that may only be result of an exhibition game. After last season’s atrocious three-point shooting, the Gophers may have broken out of their funk last night during their 98-49 victory over the Minnesota-Moorhead Dragons.
Last year the Gophers made less than 33% of their three pointers, allowing opponents to pack the lane and making inside scoring, both by post players and driving perimeter players, an exercise in futility. Blake Hoffarber, who was one of the more accurate freshman three point shooters in the country, shouldered the brunt of those shooting woes as his three point shooting percentage fell 8 percentage points.
Shooters must keep shooting to break out of a slump, and that happened last night. Hoffarber led the way making 4-5 shots from the outside. Devoe Joseph added five three pointers of his own and Lawrence Westbrook added four more. Even Al Nolen took and made a three pointer. As a team the Gophers shot 61% from the outside.
All was not well with the offense though, especially in terms of taking care of the ball. Last night may have represented a regression towards the mean as the Gophers committed 10 first half turnovers and 17 in the game. Turnovers are never good, but some are better than others. Last night’s were mostly a result of poor communication. On one occasion a pass went to two players at once, and both assumed it was directed at the other. On another occasion Justin Cobbs threw an ally-oop to the basket support. The game was sloppy at times, but these issues should improve as the players familiarize themselves with each other.
On the glass the Gophers once again dominated their undersized foe. Last night’s rebounding was done by committee, and is likely more representative of what we will see during the regular season. While it would be nice to see a dominant rebounder emerge (and it could if Trevor Mbakwe becomes eligible) the Gophers simply don’t have the width for this to happen on the current roster. The Big Ten continues to be a conference of big bodies. Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson don’t yet play as big as they are. Paul Carter is true athlete who never quits, but he will need more time on the court to achieve great rebounding totals.
Minnesota’s defensive effort was more of the same. They forced lots of turnovers and gave up lots of three pointers. Minnesota-Moorhead scored nearly half of their points from behind the three point line. I’m still undecided about how troublesome this really is, especially considering that the Dragons shot only 33% from the outside. Such a high percentage of points scored from the outside certainly signifies that the interior defense was impressive (the Gophers did record 13 blocks) but it also signifies that there remain shooting gaps on the perimeter. We will continue to keep track of Minnesota’s perimeter defense as the season continues.
Who did what:
- Paul Carter finally got a lay-up or two to drop and also showed off a decent mid-range jumper. He will always be a better rebounder than a scorer, and any time he shoots around 50% will be a bonus. He finished the game with nine points and six rebounds.
- Damian Johnson’s 4-10 shooting isn’t as important as the location of those shots. He continues to expand his shooting range, and nailed a jumper last night with his heels on the women’s three point line. His passing was also excellent as he recorded four assists to go with 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. Typical really.
- Ralph Sampson III must love playing tiny teams. Another 11 points, six rebounds, and four blocks. Much was made of his mid-range jumper before he became a Gophers, but he hasn’t shown it this season, nor has he had to. I’d like to see him show he can score in multiple ways before he runs out of opportunities to dominate on the inside.
- Lawrence Westbrook’s new-found lack of bulk may have turned him into more of a traditional three-point shooting guard instead of the bowling ball slasher of a year ago. Last night he had 16 points on 4 three pointers and couple of easy lay-ups.
- Al Nolen appears to be moving the ball better, but still isn’t even trying to score. Last night he made the only shot he attempted, a three pointer.
- Blake Hoffarber is back. He scored 14 points on 4-5 three point shooting. This isn’t the first time I have declared that he is back. Let’s hope it is the last.
- Devoe Joseph led all scorers with 20 points, the vast majority of which came from the shooting guard position. Tubby Smith played a three guard line up during most of the second half, which was when Joseph exploded.
- Colton Iverson had a very rough night and just seemed out of it. His post moves seemed awkward and he committed three turnovers in 15 minutes. He nearly redeemed himself on a breakaway dunk but was intentionally fouled by some oaf. Every big man deserves a breakaway dunk, and taking that opportunity away with an intentional foul is morally despicable.
- Rodney Williams now has an air-ball to go along with his three pointers last week. The freshman did score 6 points and recorded two blocks.
- Justin Cobbs got rejected by the rim, and briefly by his coach. It has happened to every basketball player with the ability or aspiration to dunk, and rim rejections are nothing to be ashamed of, and it was good to see that Cobbs took it pretty well. Tubby Smith pulled him briefly from the game, but what choice did he have?
- Dominique Dawson played like a walk-on with two turnovers in four minutes.