zipsofakron

At first glance the numbers from the end of Minnesota’s latest comedy don’t seem that bad:

  • They lost by merely two points
  • They shot 44% from the field
  • They won the rebounding battle

But for those of us who had the misfortune of actually tuning into the latest shortcoming by the Gophers know the real story, which is that the team couldn’t buy a competent offensive possession in the second half, gave up entirely too many easy field goals to the Hawkeyes and couldn’t buy a three if their season depended on it. And perhaps the most awful realization of the entire game — Minnesota has absolutely no idea whatsoever how to approach a 2-3 zone.

The Gophers actually held a 32-21 lead late in the first half and seemed well in control of the game. It wasn’t until a late 10-0 run to send the Hawkeyes into the half with almost 100% of the momentum that things changed for the worse. In fact, the Hawkeyes didn’t relinquish control for the rest of game, merely toying with Gophers until the very end before heading back down Interstate 35 with a 64-62 victory.

You might be thinking, “how come the Gophers attempted 23 three pointers in the game. Aren’t we fairly inept at shooting threes?” Well, my friend, your curiosity is warranted. The Gophers, in fact, attempted 23 pointers, making only four of them for a cool 17%. Austin Hollins was 0-5 by himself, while Julian Welch went 2-9. Five other players combined to go 2-9 from long range, too. You’d think that because Iowa isn’t a super large team that Minnesota might have been able to use its size and athletic advantage to get better shots near the basket. Indeed, this was the case in the beginning of the game and was directly responsible for the initial 11-point lead. But then a funny thing happened…

…the Hakweyes switched to a 2-3 zone.

It’s a mysterious thing, this “zone”. The defensive players don’t actually guard the offense directly. Instead they are assigned to a certain portion of the court to guard against anyone who comes into it. Now, the zone is a very simple defense. So simple, in fact, that it’s used by 5th graders and rec teams when they feel outmatched by their opponents athletically. But the very nature of the defense leaves it open to holes that can be exploited nearly every time down the court. That is, if you’re looking for the holes.

Last night looked like the first time the players on Minnesota had ever seen such a defense. They would pass the ball around the arc trying to find an opening while Ralph Sampson would spin in circles trying to find someone to post up. After about 2o seconds of this the team would start to panic with the shot clock running down and would invariably hoist a contested three-pointer. This probably happened about 15 times, leading to the disgusting three-point performance. In the second half of the game, Minnesota’s offense basically looked like this:

It wasn’t pretty and really opens up a pretty simple stop for opponents looking to shut down the Gopher offense — run a zone.

After all this, the Gophers were still in position to force a tie with as little as six seconds remaining. The Hawkeyes missed six of their final seven free throws (sound familiar, Gopher fans?!) leaving Maverick Ahanmisi with the ball on the final drive and a chance to tie. Unfortunately, Mav negated a fairly decent drive with a less-than-desirable finish. The final horn signified another loss in the conference for Minnesota and nice quip from our good buddy, the Least Interesting Man in the World.

“I don’t always have the opportunity for a game-tying possession. But when I do, I make sure I give the reins to Maverick Ahanmisi.”

Notes/observations:

  • Ralph Sampson III had six turnovers, which, incidentally, was higher than his rebound total (4). Most of these turnovers came when Sampson would receive a pass and then do that thing where he turns around and holds the ball really low so that guys who are eight inches shorter than him can force a tie up. It was either that or holding the ball until someone knocked it away. Awful.
  • The Gophers are now 1-13 in their last 14 conference games.
  • Julian Welch actually had a good game outside of his icky three-point shooting. Welch led the team with 14 points on 6-13 shooting and nabbed six steals.
  • Austin Hollins dished out five assists and grabbed five offensive rebounds but was only 2-9 from the field.
  • Rodney Williams had the best all around game of the team, putting up 11 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting three blocks.