Ordinarily in recaps I try to stay relatively calm and objective; to review the game without much emotion clouding what I saw and how I interpreted it. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the only way to cope with the frustration that is spinning in my head is to let loose a stream of consciousness and hopefully just exhaust myself to the point that I stop thinking about how we lost to one of the two worst teams in the Big Ten. A team without its two best players or one that stands above the height of 6’9″. A team that has lost to both Northwestern and Iowa by a combined 26 points.
I don’t want to trash a team that just put the Gophers to bed. Indiana played with supreme intensity and, even though they nearly gave it up, seemed in control of the game the whole time. I’d rather comment on just how nauseating of a performance Minnesota put on in a time where they are going to need every win they can muster. Seriously, I actually feel a little sick just thinking about the abomination of play that was shown on TV this evening. At times I thought I was watching an intramural team from a D3 school. Other times I thought that it was a daydream, though the sheer vividness of ineptitude was too real to be confused with a dream.
I want SO bad to give the team credit for coming back from a double digit deficit to almost take back the game they had left for dead. But I can’t. It’s nothing to applaud. If they had been up by 14 instead, had given up the lead, then battled back to almost take it back, that might be a different story. But when Trevor Mbakwe is being exposed by freaking Tom Pritchard, when Rodney Williams is playing like a high school freshman, when Colton Iverson is taking mid-range jumpers from the top of the key during a solid run, when you’re shooting 50% from the free-throw line then no…no credit for an almost comeback.
My god, the free throws. Can it really get any worse? Watching this team at the line is like watching a movie you’re actually scared of. Brick, brick, brick, brick. 11-22 from the line is ridiculous. Just utterly ridiculous. Shooting only 63% would have tied the game, 65% would have won it; those percentages are crappy in their own right. I said it earlier this season, but sooner or later the horrific free-throw percentages were going to kill this team. Unfortunately it finally happened.
This game exposed the incapabilities of the offense from other angles. Primarily, that no one else can shoot on the team except for Blake Hoffarber and EVERYONE KNOWS IT. Williams was given at least an eight-foot cushion when he had the ball on the perimeter. Ditto for Chip Armelin and Ralph Sampson III. Indiana wanted them to shoot. Austin Hollins, thankfully, took advantage of the space and hit a couple threes. In fact, Hollins was the lone bright spot of the entire game (fine, Blake wasn’t so bad either). But that doesn’t lessen the realization that the team has basically no way to score outside of the interior. If Williams didn’t shoot another shot the entire season, it might not be a bad thing. It got so bad that the Hoosiers actually implemented a “box and one” defense. The box and one is used against you when you have one good player. In this case, the “one” was matched up on Hoffarber. You know you have problems on offense when the other team basically tells you, via defense, that you only have one player they care about.
Without a secondary scoring threat, the bigs were basically ineffective. Whenever the ball was put down low in one of the bigs hands, Indiana would immediately double team him, which would usually leave someone open on the perimeter. Unfortunately, that player was usually Williams or someone else you don’t want shooting a three-pointer. The end result was Sampson, Iverson and Mbakwe combining for 20 points in 99 total minutes. Against a team whose tallest player is 6’9″.
I really, really don’t want to discount the Gophers, because I know they are better than what we saw tonight. However, this is a scary situation. We had the excuse with Purdue that they were just a tough opponent to go up against, especially on the road. We certainly couldn’t have expected a win from them last week. But the loss to Indiana raises questions in terms of personnel. Minnesota just lost to a bad team, and looked bad doing it. Credit to Indiana, but this should have been a 20-point blowout. The Hoosiers shot less than 40% from the field, hit only five of their 24 three-point attempts (though it seemed like more) and committed 20 personal fouls. The only reason that the Gophers weren’t blown out is because Indiana wasn’t able to deliver the knockout punch when they were up by 14 and the Gophers were playing “hot potato” with the basketball.
Yes, it’s hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, but tonight was just ugly. If nothing else, it might be a way for the team to get such a performance out of their systems. Coming off of a similar performance to Purdue, though, this type of play is starting to look like a trend. Ohio State won’t be messing around when they come to town and I’m not sure the Gophers are ready for them.
But, hey, it’s hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, right? …Right?!