Conference wins in the Big Ten don’t come easy. But road conference wins? Forget about it. At least, that’s what it’s felt like in Minnesota over the past two seasons, where we’ve most recently seen the Gophers endure an 8-game road losing streak.

That all ended on Wednesday night as Minnesota came from behind to take down Penn State in a wild 68-65 victory. It was a sloppy one, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Take a step back and consider that Richard Pitino won his first ever road conference game, and now rides a two-game conference winning streak. Granted, it was on the road at Penn State, but in a conference where nothing is guaranteed, picking up ANY road conference win, especially with a team in a semi-rebuilding mode, is huge.

Of course, there are plenty of subtexts. This now marks the second game in a row where the Gophers have had to work pretty hard to avoid a loss to a subpar team. After almost giving up a 19-point lead at home to Purdue, Minnesota had to rally from an 8-point deficit just to survive Penn State. And the propensity of this team to go dark for minutes on end is starting to appear more than just a couple isolated incidents. The first half of this game reminded me of the first half of Chaminade, where the Gophers were almost taking the opponent for granted, and that can’t happen.

With an intense part of the schedule coming up, Minnesota can’t afford to go 65% from the line, or have one of its best players score in the low single digits. The lackadaisical nature of the droughts looks really contagious on this team, as do the shooting streaks. Minnesota couldn’t miss against Purdue, but it also couldn’t get much going at times against Penn State. That’s concerning with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa all up next.

Elliott Eliason was a beast once again, and is quickly becoming the most consistent player on the team. Nabbing his fifth double-double of the season, Eliason racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds while swatting 4 blocks, and proved once again to be a force on the inside. But one game after setting the world on fire with 18 points and hot shooting, Austin Hollins was no where to be found, going 1-5 from the field and scoring only 4 points. He made up for it down the stretch with some good defense but, man, that’s two bad performances in three games for the senior. Hollinsanity was once again did not live up to expectations.

Drizzy Mathieu, though he looked completely overmatched in the first half, showed some guts in the second and actually ended up with 16 points, which was good to see.

The jury is still out on whether or not these streaks of ineptitude are a trend or a mirage. However, with the cream of the conference crop on the horizon, we’ll know in pretty short order where the Gophers stack up with the big boys of the Big Ten.

4 thoughts on “Eliason stars as Gophers survive Penn State

  1. I think you’re being a little hard on the team after a great win on the road. I thought there were some real good things that happened. Oto Osenieks played one of his best games as a Gopher. His confidence is way up and he is hitting his mid range and three point shots. Last year he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn but what ever coach Pitino is doing is working for Oto. You can’t say enough good things about Elliot Elliason and the way he is playing. Yes Austen didn’t have a very good night but he made a very important steal that led to the lead. We didn’t make our foul shots in the first half but when the game was on the line everyone stepped up and made most of there attempts. If grading the Gophers I’d give them a B for there effort. Your right though the next 4 games are going to be a real test because they’ll be lucky to one of those games. Austen and Malik are going to have to step it up if they want to have any chance of winning. Go Gophers!

    • I’m actually going pretty easy on them compared to some other media folks. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a road conference victory in any shape or form, but Minnesota should have won each of their past two games by more than 10 points, and their penchant for disappearing for minutes on end is disturbing. It’s something that can improve over time, but they won’t have the opportunity to come back against Michigan State or Ohio State if guys like Austin Hollins don’t show up. But you’re right, they have showed some heart down the stretch, which is much different than what we’re used to.

  2. I’d like to see Matthieu be willing to step up and take over more often when Dre is off his game like he was in the first half. The kid can play, and he can create shots.

    My biggest beef right now: How many times do we see opponents getting the wide open threes from the wings? Someone keeps losing track of their man on the wing or just isn’t rotating out there quickly enough or something. Consistently, opposing teams are getting wide-open threes from the wings. I can’t point a finger at any one player that I’ve noticed consistently; it seems to be more of a scheme issue. Are teams really rotating the ball that effectively or are we just missing something?

    • That’s a good point on the defensive breakdown, and something I’ve noticed as well. They get caught in rotation from time to time, but they’re having to collapse further than they should to help out down low, which leaves the perimeter exposed. Hopefully with Eliason showing that he can hold his own down there there will be less help needed on penetration.

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