So much for Morgan State presenting a potential challenge. The Gophers jumped out to an 18-0 lead, and were up 9-0 before the Bears even attempted a shot. Morgan State essentially played the Gophers even for the middle 30 minutes of the game, but still lost 94-64.
This may have been the most meaningless of a slew of meaningless non-conference games at The Barn. The early lead erased any doubt that the Gophers were a far superior team, and Morgan State seemed to give up about half-way through the first half, if they were even trying at all. Morgan State’s coach Todd Bozeman spent most of his time on the bench with his head in his hands grumbling about just about everything.
The fans that made it to the game, through treacherous at best driving conditions, weren’t rewarded for their fortitude. The Gophers played lazy and lackadaisical. The game had no flow due to Morgan State’s propensity to foul any one who had the ball within 50 feet from the basket. This was one of the few games that I have ever considered leaving early. The lack of energy, the lopsided lead, and the certainty of a cold walk back across campus didn’t lend themselves to an enjoyable night.
Even if the game itself wasn’t interesting, there were a few items of interest. Reggie Holmes, Morgan State’s leading scorer, proved that anyone, no matter how (un)talented, is capable of scoring 20 points in an NCAA basketball game. All it takes is a high volume of shots and no acknowledgement of any teammates. Lawrence Westbrook could score 50 points per game in a similar situation.
For the Gophers, free throw shooting finally improved. They shot 71% percent for the game. This still isn’t great but it should be enough in most games to not be a detriment to their chance of winning. Shooting from the floor was also decent. Minnesota shot very well in the first half, 53% from the floor and 50% from three, but as the game got out of hand so did the Gophers’ focus. In the second half they made only 44% of their field goal attempts.
Morgan State was putrid on offense, so it is not advisable to assume that their poor shooting performance is indicative of anything Minnesota did. The Bears shot only 30% from the floor for the game, which is a significant improvement over their 25% first half shooting performance. They made only 3-20 three point shots. The Gophers now rank 54th in the country in three point defense. The competition is bad, but the perimeter defense seems to be getting better.
Morgan State’s shooting misery created dozens of chances for second half points, but the Gophers held their own on the glass. Kevin Thompson, a Morgan State forward had a monster game with 19 rebounds. Unfortunately he was the only player on his team that was much of a rebounding threat. The Gophers had a much more even-handed approach, and had higher percentages of rebounds on both ends of the court, and every player had at least two boards.
It was a meaningless game, but it should add to the team’s confidence. In the second half they may have acted like they can win no matter how they play, but I’ll take this any day over a team playing like they are afraid of and expecting to lose.
Who did what
- Damian Johnson will take take the extremely obtuse angled bank shot from anywhere on the court, no matter how close to the baseline he is. He attempted one shot last night directly sideways from the basket, with no arc, and barely looking at the basket, and it almost went in. The man knows his angles. There was a bit of a scary moment in the second half when Johnson left the game with a wrist injury. Twenty-four hours later there is no word of x-rays or really anything else. He seems to be just fine.
- Ralph Sampson III has his free throws correct one game after knocking down a plethora of jumpers from around 15 feet. His floor game wasn’t too encouraging with only 1-4 shooting, but he did have 7 rebounds, raising his average to a team leading 6.1 rebounds per game.
- Blake Hoffarber led the Gophers in scoring for the second consecutive game, and may be the Gophers’ most well-rounded offensive player.
- Lawrence Westbrook finally started taking the ball to the basket and getting to the free throw line, where he made 6-7 on the way to 14 points.
- Al Nolen showed Reggie Holmes how defense is played in the Big Ten. He harassed one of the nation’s top scorers all night, forcing Holmes into 4 turnovers while collecting 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.
- Devoe Joseph appears to be making a conscientious effort to play in control, and it is improving his shooting. He scored 7 points on 3-5 shooting. Joseph has limitless range with his feet underneath him. The only bad shot is one in which he doesn’t jump straight up.
- Paul Carter had foul trouble, and scored only 3 points in 8 minutes of action.
- Rodney Williams dunked, and the Gophers won again. His four blocks were impressive, his 3-6 shooting from the line was not. Williams has a unique ability to get to the line, but if he wastes those opportunities all his talent is wasted.
- Colton Iverson is cold again with only 2-6 shooting. He will probably be the most inconsistent Gophers this season, but should be only one year away from a monster season. He has all the tools, but sometimes forgets what he is capable of.
- Justin Cobbs had two horrible turnovers and five points. He just isn’t doing enough to deserve significant playing time at this point.
- Devron Bostick had the line to get more time. In only10 minutes he scored nine points with 5 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. The shooting is still very rusty, but he is a natural scorer and finds a way to get his points. Last night it was by posting up and getting fouled.