That wasn’t so hard now, was it? After two excruciatingly painful games in which they seemingly forgot how to play basketball, the Gophers came out against Nebraska with guns blazing and something to prove. Wanting to show that they weren’t the 44 and 48-point team they were against Northwestern and Wisconsin the Gophers instead blew the doors off The Barn, scoring 84 points, shooting 54 percent from the field and grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to totally dominate the boards. In fact, if it wasn’t for Nebraska’s Ray Gallegos, who scored 30 points, the game would have been far, far out of reach for the Huskers much earlier.
The game was a complete 180 from what we’ve seen from Minnesota over the past four games, which was very encouraging. Yes, they were playing a bottom-of-the-barrel Big Ten team, but that’s not really the point. After seeing them perform so awfully against a team like Northwestern, for instance, the Gophers needed anything to get them over the hump and into the win column. Nebraska was just the team to get their confidence back.
Rodney Williams, who had been very quiet the last two games, exploded for 23 points and looked very invested in the game. Seeing him sulk the past two games was discouraging, but it was good to see that all hope isn’t lost on him. Andre and Austin Hollins both got into double figures as well, which was also encouraging. With Austin struggling the last two games both mentally and on the court, seeing him succeed both on defense and offense was encouraging. Notice a trend here?
I’m not sure what got into the Gophers against Northwestern and Wisconsin. Anyone who’s followed this team all year knows that those two games stand out as particularly awful. For whatever reason they were unable to get anything going on offense and it was extremely frustrating. No flow, no transition, no execution. It was like watching a confused middle school team. Playing against Nebraska got them back into the swing of things. They played with confidence, they hit their shots, they moved on offense, they cut up the defense and they executed. Once again, Gopher basketball was fun to watch. Was it because they were playing at home? Maybe. But it was encouraging nonetheless. The one thing this team needed was a win to get the monkey off its back. And the fact that they dominated was gravy.
The biggest thing I noticed, however, was the lack of mental mistakes. Even in their blowout victories earlier this year the team still had several head-scratching moments. They would turn the ball over way too much, play out of control or take low-percentage shots. Tonight, though, they turned the ball over only five times. FIVE TIMES. That’s unheard of with this team. Them having less than 10 turnovers in a game is Sasquatch-rare. It’s a borderline impossibility. But with confidence comes execution, and the team played very well on both ends of the court.
They also dominated the rebounding game to the tune of 34-17 and won the offensive rebound battle 15-3. That’s a whole lot of 2nd chance points.
Again, this all came against Nebraska, so it’s not like they went into Lansing and sent the Spartans packing. But given their recent struggles and awful production the last couple weeks, seeing them come out and just destroy a conference opponent was a welcome sight and at least reinforced the idea that all hope is not completely lost with these guys. Their confidence is not shot, they just needed to play a team that would remind them what they’re capable of. And with Iowa coming to town on Sunday, Minnesota has another chance to get back on track and start a nice winning streak.
- Nebraska has a 315-lb forward from Brazil named Andre Almeida. And he doesn’t have a whole lot of muscle. Mo Walker got into the game late and ended up posting Almeida up. It was certainly a sight. I never thought I’d see Mo look small compared to someone else, but Almeida dwarfed him out there. I’m surprised the court held its ground with 600 lbs. of man sitting on top of it.