With one tongue wagging push off and an obvious travel, Minnesota’s season fell apart. Verdell Jones, on track to become one of the least likeable player in the Big Ten was giddy, not because his fall away jumper knocked off the Gophers, but because he knew he got away with another one on a day when the referees were more than willing to decide the outcome of the game before any of the players could. Disputable hand check after disputable hand check sent the sophomore point guard to the free throw line 19 times. In the two previous games and the two following games, Jones went to the line a total of 14 times. Yet he still had the audacity to stick his tongue out instead of congratulate the officials. Though, after 19 undeserved trips to the free throw line, a lot of people would mistake themselves for Michael Jordan.
Ordinarily I would worry about today’s game against the Hoosiers. It is a perfect trap game scenario sandwiched between an emotional win over the evil Badgers and a chance to knock off a potential number 1 seed on Wednesday, but this is a revenge game. The Gophers took out a lot of their frustration on Thursday, but they still have plenty left for the Hoosiers. They should also be able to carry over the energy from the win less than 48 hours ago. The Gophers haven’t had enough time to grow complacent or forget what it means to play hard for a full forty minutes.
Minnesota didn’t lose to Indiana a few weeks ago only because of Jones’ antics. They lost because they couldn’t stop dribble penetration or grab a rebound to save their lives. Thanks to Tubby Smith’s new found giant 3-2 zone, these two problems should be largely ameliorated. Jones and company can try to drive all they want, but they’ll have about 21′ 6” of Damian Johnson, Colton Iverson, and Ralph Sampson to deal with in the lane. Those rebounds won’t come easy either.
If the Gophers want it, they’ll have this win. Motivation and effort have been a problem all season for the Gophers, so there is no guarantee the will be ready to play. But if they are, Indiana should duck and cover.