No news is good news during most non-conference college basketball games. The good teams are supposed to beat up on the not so good teams, and by doing so, they make the occasional non-conference games between good teams worth watching. Starting the game on a 24-2 run, the Gophers made quick work of Wofford and eventually won by 22 points. The Syracuse game Monday afternoon will be worth watching.
The biggest concern heading into the game, despite a 4-0 record, was Minnesota’s defensive struggle innside, where opponents were making better than 50% of their shots. Elliot Eliason proved to be a more than capable rim protector against Wofford with seven blocks, and he altered several others. The Terriers made only 38% of their two point attempts, and simply did not have enough size to compete. Their three-point shooting was even worse, at 4-21 on the night. Ultimate chucker Karl Cochran shot 1-7 from behind the three-point line.
The grumbling types, and certainly the coaching staff, won’t be happy that a 22 point game five minutes in was also a 22 point game after 40 minutes. Certainly the execution lagged in the second half, and the Gophers could have been more focused. However, lack of focus against a bad team in a blowout has little to do with the focus against a ranked team on a national stage. Minnesota’s one team goal on Thursday night was to prove they remembered how to play defense, and they unequivocally did that.
Notes and Thoughts:
- Austin Hollins, perhaps because he was so focused on becoming a better rebounder, hadn’t been much of an offensive threat in the young season. He broke out of what was become a slump with 18 points on 11 field goal attempts.
- Focusing only on Elliot Eliason’s defensive performance does him a disservice. He also scored 11 points, often with impressive mobility, and had a game high 11 rebounds.
- Oto Osenieks was slightly less #otomatic, at least behind the three point line where he made only 1-4. On the inside, he was very efficient making 5-7 shots and had a career high 14 points. If the Gophers make the NCAA tournament this season, Osenieks will deserve a lot of credit for holding down the fort during Maurice Walker’s suspension.
- A 22 point win against a bad team isn’t impressive. It is noteworthy, though, that the Gophers still managed to score 79 points on a night when Andre Hollins only took five shots.
- Daquein McNeil scored his first points as a Golden Gopher with a nice drive to the rim near the end of the second half.