It’s hard to really drum up much excitement for a game against the 2nd-worst team in D1, but the main story line following the Gophers after their impressive win over Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was their ability to avoid looking past New Orleans as they recovered from a thrilling victory over a major opponent.
While Minnesota didn’t drub the Privateers as much as everyone probably expected (after all, they’ve beaten other teams by far more already this year) they definitely used their superior athleticism, talent and shooting ability to roll New Orleans 80-65 in a game that was never really in doubt.
Actually, scratch that. The game was sort of in doubt down the stretch, when the Gophers forgot how to play basketball and went without a field goal for more than three and a half minutes. The Privateers climbed back in to the game and cut a 24-point lead down to eight with just over three minutes left. The Gophers shored things up, however, and hit some free throws down stretch to seal the victory.
It’s hard to take much away from a game like this. The Gophers were in a position where they could make mistakes and get away with them, so their misgivings were often masked. Further, both Malik Smith and Elliott Eliason were dealing with ankle injuries, which forced a lineup shuffle. Mo Walker got his first career start and saw 23 minutes while Maverick Ahanmisi was leaned on even more heavily, seeing an incredible 21 minutes. Of course, when playing a team like New Orleans, it’s entirely possible to get away such lineup shifts without them hurting in the long run.
It’s actually decent timing for the Gophers, injury wise. With a long break after Tuesday’s South Dakota State game, the team is off for 10 straight days, which should give the ailing Smith and Eliason plenty of time to heal. If there were going to be injuries, this is probably the time to get them out of the way.
The Gophers spread the ball around quite thoroughly, and six players scored in double figures. Oh, and there was this little gem from Austin Hollins that landed him in the SportsCenter Top 10: