Pathetic. Embarrassing. Unbelievable. What ever negative word someone wants to use to describe the Gophers effortless, aloof performance against the Michigan Wolverines would probably be deserved. At a time when Minnesota needed to come out firing against a team with nothing to play for, a time that called for nothing more than a solid performance to continue an unnecessary late-season run to the postseason, the Gophers came out and did what they do best. Blow it.
In their worst loss of the season, Minnesota came out flat against a Michigan team winding down its own disappointing season in front of a crowd that really didn’t even want to be there. Chucking shots, not playing defense, turning the ball over, not forcing turnovers – the Gophers did everything they could to ensure that they got blown out at a time where lack of execution and poor concentration meant the end of a run to the postseason.
One question though: Was this really a surprise? This team has made believers at times this season of even the darkest, most pessimistic regions of Gopher Nation, only to revert to head-scratching breakdowns and violence-inducing losses. From the three game neutral court skid in the beginning of the season to the double digit leads that slipped away to nationally ranked teams to the overtime loss to a JV Indiana team, this team refused to capitalize at times that required it the most. It only follows, then, that they would give away their entire season at a crucial, winnable contest in Ann Arbor.
One thing that this loss further drives home is that the 2009-10 Gopher team, though ranked in the top 20 to begin the season, just isn’t that good. Sure, they can play up to teams frequently, and even put scares into Michigan State and Purdue…but they didn’t win. In fact they lost in incredibly pathetic fashion in a couple instances. Granted, the team lost a HUGE part of its original core with losses of Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen, so maybe expectations were far too high to begin with. But after this Michigan game it’s readily apparent that the team is no better than a mediocre Big Ten squad. No leadership, poor offensive execution and suspect confidence is no way to win games, but a great way to lose them. Here’s hoping for an NIT bid.
- Damian Johnson continued to prove that he is the only one on the team close to being a “go-to” guy, leading the team with 13 points and five rebounds and showing good hustle. Unfortunately, he was the only player on the team doing anything worth applauding.
- Lawrence Westbrook finished with three points on 1-6 shooting and didn’t get to the free throw line. He did put up six assists, which were negated by his on and off-court pouting.
- Colton Iverson scored 10 points off the bench, marking the first time since early December that he put up a double digit scoring effort. His performance would be more exciting if his entire season hadn’t been one long blooper reel.
- Ralph Sampson actually continued to show that his offensive game might be taking a step forward, nailing a couple hook shots, scoring seven points and pulling in five rebounds.
- Another semi-positive: Rodney Williams looked energized and got some solid playing time, racking up 18 minutes and six points including a highlight reel 360 breakaway dunk. Nice to see Rodney capitalizing on his minutes when the starters were not.
- Blake Hoffarber was held to under 10 points for the fourth straight game. Not that it’s his fault, but for the record the Gophers have won only two games all season when Hoffarber scores under 10 points.
- Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims again destroyed the Gopher defense, racking up 45 points on 18-28 shooting. That’s including only two three pointers.
(Photo by Tony Ding, Associated Press)