Another non-conference game against a lower-tier opponent; another blowout win for the Minnesota Gophers. Like the previous game against American, the Gophers came out in full force, hawking the ball and administering a full-court press from the opening tip. Like American, Toledo had trouble getting into a rhythm in the face of a tight Minnesota defense and found themselves down big early, 15-2 at one point, and trailed 48-22 at halftime. It was obvious from the outset that Toledo was far outmatched, and the Gophers basically cruised after getting out to a sizeable lead early in the game, winning 82-56. The second half was a bit of mess for both sides, but we’ll nitpick in a minute.
Let’s talk about the second straight blowout administered by the Golden Gophers, shall we? Once again, the team looked ferocious on the court and put the boot down early in the game, suffocating the Rockets and never allowing even a whiff of a chance for them to get into the game. Take a step back and look at where we are right now. Minnesota is 2-0 after having beaten their opponents by a combined 62 points. At this time last year we were sneaking by Bucknell and worrying if we could actually beat Fairfield by double digits. This year, instead, we trying to find notable weaknesses in a team throttling not-awful mid-majors by dozens of points. In short, Minnesota is doing exactly what it should be doing, and doing it forcefully. It’s a good place to be in.
However, let’s try not to pat ourselves on the back too hard quite yet. In just a little over a week there will be a hell of a wake up call waiting for these guys, and we’ll be able to see just how well they stack up with the cream of the college basketball crop when they face the Duke Blue Devils. In fact there are a couple of things that were concerning coming out of the Toledo game. The second half was sloppy to the point that it was almost ridiculous. Lots of bad turnovers, lots of lazy fouls. It certainly may have been a product of the team just not being invested or challenged in the game by that poit, but the 19 turnovers for the game against someone like Toledo is not good. The Rockets also shot an awful 31% for the game, but it wasn’t a crazy Gophers defense that caused them to miss, and a lot of their misses were just open shots they couldn’t hit.
Of course, these are just nitpicky items from a single game that occurred extremely early in the season. There isn’t a trend in poor defense, for instance, that should cause any worry. In fact, there isn’t really any trend yet this season that bears watching outside of the less-than-stellar half-court offense.
We didn’t get to see Minnesota play too much against a zone versus Toledo, which would have been interesting, because they definitely did not do a whole lot against the American zone. The Gophers are full of good passers, and pretty much picked apart the Toledo man defense. And unlike the American game, the team was actually able to hit some of their three pointers. So, again, it’s pretty much impossible to draw any conclusions this early in the season since the sample size is so small. But the fact that we’re trying to nitpick a team that has run up back to back blowouts is the equivalent of a college basketball #firstworldproblem.
Notes and thoughts:
- Trevor Mbakwe saw 14 minutes off the bench and looked much more spry than in the American game. In fact, he had a productive outing, scoring six points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out two assists and blocking two shots. Not bad for just 14 minutes. It’s clear that he continues to gain more and more confidence in his knee.
- Mo Walker saw 11 minutes, but didn’t do too much with them. He missed all three shots he took and didn’t look particularly good when attempting them. You’d definitely like to see more out of Walker at this point but, like Mbakwe, he’s battling back from injury and needs a fair amount of time to shake off the rust. It still looks like he’s got a ways to go, however.
- Austin Hollins picked up right where he left off at the outset, scoring 10 points in less than five minutes to begin the game, though he ran into foul trouble at the same time and didn’t see a whole lot of minutes the rest of the way. That said, Austin is an important piece to the team’s success this year. With his defensive intensity and offensive capabilities firing on all cylinders he has looked like a much more complete player so far, and it’s allowed for people like Andre to shoulder less of the offensive load and concentrate on being a point guard. Obviously, the more weapons the Gophers have to lean on this season the better off they will be. Austin is in a position to be game-changer this season, and it looks like he’ll be playing a big part of helping shoulder the load.
- Rodney Williams quietly did what he had to do again. He scored 12 points on 5-5 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds – five of which were offensive. When Rodney is scoring 12 points and you don’t even notice, something is definitely going right.
- For the second game in a row, Tubby didn’t employ his hockey-style lineup changes – the ones where subs in five guys at a time and brings in the “second line”. Not only did that disrupt the flow of the offense in years past, but they often seemed to be unwarranted. This year, instead, he has slowly transitioned the starters to the reserves without a mass change, thus preventing a massive disconnect in who was on the floor before and after the substitution. Hopefully that trend continues.