Well I’ll be….where in the name of Clem Haskins has this team been all season. Intensity, concentration, EXECUTION. If all it takes is a shaved head to win in this business, than maybe Joel Maturi should consider bringing Andre Agassi on board as a consultant.
Not that it even comes close to making up for the trainwreck of a season that Gopher Nation has been forced to endure, but for the first time all season, it was actually fun to be a Gopher fan. After falling down quickly, the team basically never looked back, and didn’t trail after the 14:30 mark in the first half. The poor habits that have plagued Minnesota so far this season just weren’t there. There were few stupid fouls, a greater concentration on taking care of the ball, an aggressive offensive scheme and *gasp* no meltdown. When the Gophers had the ball, they weren’t scared. Very unlike the rest of the season.
Whether this means the team has turned a corner or if it means they just amped themselves up for the sole game against their hated rival remains to be seen, but the one thing that can’t be denied is that they played really well against a really good team.
However, I’m not going to be a rube and pretend like everything is all better. The Gopher D still looked petty and any semblance of offensive capability would have torched the open shots they were giving up. Wisconsin attempted 30 (thirty) three-pointers and hit 11 of them and many of the looks they missed were wide-open. That’s not Minnesota doing a good stopping the offense, that’s the Badgers stopping themselves. Worse, the Gophers only grabbed four steals and caused five turnovers overall.
But the big difference in this game as opposed to others was Minnesota took advantage of Wisconsin’s failure to score. Too often in past games the Gophers have gone into offensive funks which have kept games close. In this contest they instead went for the jugular when Wisconsin was cold from the field.
With five games left to go the Gophers need to win each of their remaining games in order to be involved in NCAA Tournament discussion. A tough, unlikely row to hoe for sure, but more importantly every game is now a must-win. If the team can show the solidarity they showed last night with their backs against the wall, then maybe we’re on to something, even this late in the season. Of course, it’s much more likely this is just a blip in the radar of utter underachievement.
- For what seems like the first time all season (I’ll check the notes) Tubby did NOT use a 10-man rotation. In fact, only six players got major playing time. It’s a popular belief that playing too many players cuts into the flow of the game and I tend to agree. Neither Rodney or Bostick saw the floor last night and Paul Carter and Justin Cobbs only combined for 19 minutes. This also stemmed from the fact that the Gophers never had anyone come close to foul trouble, allowing the best players to stay in the game.
- Even though Lawrence Westbrook scored eight points, they all came from free throws in the final four minutes. Westbrook was actually held scoreless until that point and was never able to establish himself. It’s not a bad thing when Westbrook isn’t your scoring leader. He is emotionally-charged, sure, but the way he takes over games can often be dangerous. The fact that four players scored in double digits lends credence to how in-tune the offense was the whole game.
- Blake Hoffarber – what more can you say. He’s everywhere you need him to be. Leading scorer AND rebounder…from a shooting guard. He’s been the glue to the team all season and this game was no different.
- Damian Johnson was able to stay out of foul trouble and played the most minutes on the team at 37. His presence was evident too, considering how much energy he brings on both offense and defense. The more Damian plays the better the Gophers perform, period.
(Photo by Marlin Levison, Star Tribune)