The Gophers get going in the Battle 4 Atlantis once again today when they face Memphis; going the wrong direction in the bracket. Not a whole lot of time for a full recap of the Duke game and, frankly, I’d just as soon forget the whole game even happened, enjoy my leftover turkey and cranberries and look forward to a beatdown of the Tigers.
If you were actually able to maneuver through the cable/satellite/illegal streaming fiasco of the game yesterday then you know that the Gophers, whether it was through their own volition or Duke’s unbelievable shooting, were never truly in a position to win the game yesterday. They kept themselves within striking distance throughout and actually looked like they could make a go of things a few times. But then Seth Curry or Quinn Cook would close his eyes, throw up some sort of HORSE-shot and watch it fall through the hoop. Such is life when playing Satan.
It was a supremely frustrating game to watch. Not just because the Gophers lost, but because you could see that if they would just clean up a few of their mistakes or CAPITALIZE ON DUKE’S ERRORS then they would have been right there with Coach K and his floppers. And, to boot, Duke couldn’t miss. I mean almost literally, they could almost not miss a shot if they tried in the second half. The Gophers actually outplayed Duke in the second half from a physical standpoint and had many impressive stands on defense as they tried to claw back, only to watch the Blue Devils nail an off-balance, last-second three pointer or runner from the free throw line. It was hair-graying and back-breaking for a team trying its best to get back into the game. I mean, Jesus, Duke was 8-10 from long range. What can you even do about that?
And it’s not like Duke played perfect basketball. They committed almost as many turnovers (14) as Minnesota (15) and lost the personal foul battle 21-19. In fact, the Dukies gave Minnesota plenty of chances to claw back in the game but the Gophers just couldn’t capitalize on their turnovers. I don’t have a stat for it, but several times Minnesota turned the ball over right back to Duke after they’d committed their own TO.
The loss sucks, yes, but it was good to see where the Gophers are at against perhaps the nation’s premier team. They weren’t necessarily run out of the building and the game was much closer than the final score would indicate. It’s obvious the team needs to work on taking care of the ball. They killed themselves in the first half with 10 turnovers and it’s becoming a broken record with these guys already in the bonehead mistakes department. The turnovers usually weren’t even on account of Duke playing particularly good defense. Minnesota just threw the ball away. So, again, the team isn’t far away from doing great things, and it’s games like these that expose the fact that they just need to cut down on the mental mistakes in the early going before things get too out of hand.
- Maverick Ahanmisi was the star of the first half, which says a lot about how the team played in the early going. It was nice to see him execute when the team needed someone to step up, but please, when Maverick is leading your team in scoring at halftime then something is going very wrong.
- Elliott Eliason was extremely ineffective against Mason Plumlee yesterday. Really, Plumlee did whatever he wanted against Eliason and scored 10 points in the first half before the Gophers recognized what was going on. In fact, a lot of his first half points were on account of put-backs and getting better position on Eliason. What was frustrating was that Mo Walker and Trevor Mbakwe were handling Plumlee just fine. In fact, when they went away from using Elliott in the second half Plumlee was far less effective. I’m no basketball coach, but it seems to me that Walker should have gotten more than the nine minutes he saw yesterday. He was very effective when he was out there.
- Oh yeah, and Duke hit a last second, running three-pointer right before the halftime buzzer. Because that’s what teams do against Minnesota.