It was far from pretty, and for those who tuned in to watch Minnesota take on Ohio State, the consensus number one team in the land, it was apparent that the Buckeyes are on a completely different level of play than the Gophers, taking the second meeting between the two teams 82-69.
As the Gophers dropped their third consecutive game, it was hard not to think of the style of play as a broken record, as the same problems that plagued them in their two previous losses to Purdue and Indiana surfaced in the Ohio State contest. Missed opportunities, sloppy passing, pitiful rebounding. Minnesota gave up 20 offensive rebounds to the Buckeyes. Twenty! This is with one of the biggest frontcourts in the nation. On a night when the Gophers shot 51%, they still found themselves able to fall by double digits in a game that was never close.
What happened to the rebounding advantage that Minnesota had in every game earlier in the season? These days it seems like the guys can barely hold on to the ball after an opponent’s miss. The ball will bounce off the rim and players will grasp at air, ultimately failing to secure anything but a second chance for the opposing team. More second chances for a high-caliber team almost always means more points, as it did tonight.
Ohio State was patient enough on offense, surgically breaking down the Gopher zone and using Jared Sullinger and an array of deep threats to maintain a healthy lead for most of the game. For the Gophers, though, offense was more of a comedic sitcom, with turnovers galore and zero cohesiveness in the half-court. There were few bright spots aside from Chip Armelin’s 14-point coming out party. Honestly, Armelin looked like the only guy who really cared about getting something started on offense.
Ralph Sampson III had 14 points as well, though all of those came in the first half. Blake Hoffarber tried his best to pretend to be a point guard, but it’s just not a position that suits him well. He once again led all scorers with 16 points, but turned the ball over four times and had a hard time running the offense. I give him tons of credit for taking point guard responsibilities, but he’s just not suited for Big Ten floor general duties, and it shows. Colton Iverson had a mind-blowingly awful performance, racking up four fouls, five turnovers and zero points in 14 minutes of play. At this point in the season, you’d like to think that a junior in his third year would be able to show a semblance of competence on the court, but that’s just not the case. Trevor Mbakwe was relatively invisible for the second straight game, putting up only eight points and grabbing seven rebounds, which was pretty much negated by his four fouls and four turnovers.
Though the loss came at the hands of the number one team in the land, it was frustrating in the fact that the Gophers were never close. Getting blown out at home is indefensible, no matter who you’re you playing, and today’s drubbing further accentuated just how much the team misses Al Nolen. The entire offense is lost and the stingy defense has seemingly lost its luster; there is just no flow to the game these days, which is the product of not having a point guard.
The personnel problems can’t be blamed on anyone in particular and the team has been forced to work with what they have. Any way you slice it, though, the Gophers are still 1-3 without Nolen and an Illinois loss away from official free-fall status. The team hasn’t come to play in the last three games, and if they don’t right the ship incredibly quickly it might be a long, long last few weeks of the season.