Fresh off an impressive win over arch rival Wisconsin at home, the Gophers continued to curious, if not frustrating trend of playing to their opponent’s skill level in an 82-78 loss in Lincoln.
Andre Hollins found himself on the bench in a walking boot – unable to play due to an ankle injury suffered early in the Wisconsin win. And with the Gophers beating a top-10 team without their best player, hitting the road against the Cornhuskers seemed like a challenge they could handle. Instead, the offense faltered without one of its key cogs, and Drizzy Mathieu flashed his out-of-control side, committing 9 turnovers while trying to do far too much. Austin Hollins continued his disappearing act, and was missing from the offense until the final few minutes, while Mo Walker, Elliott Eliason and Oto Osenieks combined for only 19 points.
Eliason hasn't had a dunk all season until now. Had to come some time, right. #gophers
— Marcus R. Fuller (@GophersNow) January 26, 2014
The brightest spot of the team was Malik Smith, who received his first start and put up a jaw-dropping performance. Smith tied a school record with 8 three-pointers and scored 29 points while nearly single-handedly keeping the team in the game.
Smith's eight three-pointer ties a school record set by Blake Hoffarber in 2009 against Northern Illinois. #Gophers
— Marcus R. Fuller (@GophersNow) January 27, 2014
Unfortunately, Smith’s superhuman performance wasn’t enough to push the Gophers over the top, as Nebraska took advantage of a porous Minnesota defense to score at will. Terran Pettaway had his way to the tune of 35 points, and the Huskers crushed Minnesota comebacks on multiple occasions with timely three pointers. In the end, the Gophers shot themselves in the foot with too many turnovers, not converting at the free throw line and failing to corral several rebounds that hit multiple Gophers in the hands.
STAHP IT DREADLOCKED MAN
— Dicky P's Shot Party (@Crocshots) January 27, 2014
The loss continues a trend of the Gophers playing to their opponent. For a team that not only took Michigan State to OT on the road and beat Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Gophers have also had scares with Purdue at home, against Chaminade and on the road against Penn State. The inability to put away inferior teams, especially in the conference, is concerning, and is indicative of a lack of maturity – not surprising considering the makeup of the team and their situation. But considering that the Gophers were missing their best player for essentially the second straight game, we’re far from a meltdown, and hopefully this is just a bump in the road of an otherwise successful season.