Game opening and closing runs proved too much for the Richmond Spiders, as the Golden Gophers won their first road game of the young season. Minnesota jumped out to a 12-0 run behind hot shooting and a particularly frenzied full-court press. However, the Spiders quickly regained their composure, and built a four point lead with 7:25 in the second half. Richard Pitino switched to a zone defense, and the Spiders didn’t score again as the Gophers closed the game on a 19-0 run to cruise to a 15 point win.

The middle 30 minutes of the game were not without tension. Richmond not only found a way to break the Gopher press, but used it to their advantage. The Spiders scored several baskets after getting past the first wave of Gopher defenders, in three on two and four on two situations. Minnesota eventually abandoned the press, but struggled mightily on both ends in what became more of a half-court game. Richmond was able to get the ball inside against Minnesota’s man to man defense, and were 19-35 on two point shots. The Gopher half-court offense struggled as well. Minnesota’s starting front-court was largely a non-factor, and Dre Mathieu had several shots blocked by players a foot taller than him. 

Before the Gophers could regain control, they first had to stop the bleeding. They did that by doing what they did best last season, offensive rebounding. The Gophers corralled 39% of their own missed shots leading to 17 second chance points. After finally slowing Richmond’s momentum, Dre Mathieu picked up his fourth foul and Andre Hollins picked up his third foul, the game had reached a critical juncture. In part because the man to man defense was awful and in part to prevent the two Dres from fouling, the Gophers switched to a match-up zone. The driving and passing lanes were clogged for Richmond, and they were forced to rely on their outside shooting. They were a 15% three-point shooting team before the game, and shot only 3-25 from the outside on the night. The Spiders missed their final 9 three-point attempts. As Richmond lost control, Andre Hollins took it, scoring eight points during the game ending run.

Half-court defense and offensive rebounding were never supposed to be strengths for the Gophers this season. To win on the road, a team needs to adapt. Once the Gophers did, the Spiders didn’t have a chance.

Notes and thoughts:

  • We may be witnessing the end of the Maverick Ahanmisi era. The senior guard played only two minutes in the second half, and still managed to commit an ugly turnover in that span.
  • Malik Smith took most of Ahanmisi’s minutes, and scored 11 points on 4-10 shooting.  Smith loves to shoot, and he has the green light anywhere within 30 feet. He is basically what Devron Bostick could have been, if Bostick was allowed to be himself.
  • Andre Hollins continues to be much more aggressive this season, attacking the basket relentlessly. So far this season, he is drawing 7.5 fouls per 40 minutes compared to 4.5 per 40 minutes last season. For an 80-90% free-throw shooter, that is a lot of free points.
  • Austin Hollins has taken it upon himself to be the Gophers new designated rebounded. For the second straight game he had a double-double with points and rebounds, and is grabbing 22% of possible defensive rebounds when he is on the court. Last season, he grabbed 6.7% of defensive rebounds.