There is an old adage in basketball that when two teams play the same way, the more talented team always wins. North Dakota tried to run with the Gophers on Monday night, and they couldn’t keep up. The Gophers forced turnovers on 34% of the unnamed team’s possessions, shot 64% on two pointers, 50% of three pointers, had only 12 turnovers themselves, and won 92-56. It was as close to a complete performance as we’ve seen so far this season, which is encouraging since the team didn’t seem distracted by the news of Josh Martin’s departure.
I won’t bore you with a typical review, because I don’t want to type the words “foul” or “dunk” over and over, but I will share some observations of individual players.
- Deandre Mathieu finally had his first double-double with the Gophers, dishing out 10 assists to go along with 15 points and 0 turnovers. Even more encouraging than the statistics, which were fantastic, was Mathieu’s decision-making. He didn’t go crashing into the lane where he can sometimes get in trouble. He didn’t try to draw a foul when he could make the shot. Instead, he showed of a bit of a fading floater on break that was close to unguardable.
- The evolution of Carlos Morris continues, and if he keeps improving he will be a real asset by the time Big Ten season rolls around. He scored 14 points Monday night, his third straight game in double figures and also shot better than 50% from the field for the third straight game. He may have started his Gopher career as the worst kind of chucker, but over the last few games he has been very efficient.
- There have been questions about Andre Hollins’ athleticism since his ankle injury last season. Last night he dunked twice for the first time in his career. With questions about his athleticism out of the way, we can focus on his ball handling. Hollins hasn’t committed turnovers as often as this season since he was a freshman, and he hasn’t had more assists than turnovers in a game since November 22. He’ll need to clean up his mistakes if the Gophers are going to consistently win during conference play.
- The Gophers are a bad rebounding team, and Joey King isn’t helping. His abilities on the boards are more reminiscent of a shooting guard, and Gopher power forwards, which is really only King as this point, rank 277th in the country in offensive rebounding and 329th in defensive rebounding.
- Maurice Walker played the best game of his career, scoring 22 points on 11 field goals in only 23 minutes. At times, it seems like he was benched because he was too successful. Everyone in the building knew he could score at will, and making every shot on every possession wasn’t giving anyone else a chance to score.
- Nate Mason has the potential to be a super star by the time he graduates, if he sticks around all four seasons. He scored 11 points and had 8 assists, 6 steals, and 4 rebounds. He ranks in the top 500 nationally in offensive efficiency, defensive rebounding (he’s 6’1”!), assist rate, turnover rate, and steal percentage. He might not grab headlines like another freshmen around the conference, but he is quietly putting together an excellent season.
- Elliott Eliason isn’t much of an offensive threat, and now that everyone realizes that, he no longer needs to force things on that end of the court. As his role has diminished, his efficiency has increased. He doesn’t try to score much, but when he does, he’s been pretty successful. Elliason is accounting for 1.22 points per possession, the best on the team, and because he is letting the game come to him, he’s cut his turnovers in half. Eliason gets a lot criticism for his overly demonstrative complaints and occasional technical foul, and deservedly so, which is a shame since he’s also doing a lot right.
- Charles Buggs scored the two most impressive points against North Dakota, on a thunderous alley-oop on a baseline out of bounds pass, and that was about it. Buggs will be a place-filler this season, and as long as he can be a neutral to slightly positive appearance, there isn’t much to complain about.
- Bakary Konate, has a long, long way to go, like standing still while his teammates shoot free-throws. He had back to back lane violations in the second half, and wasn’t allowed near the lane the next time the Gophers shot free-throws. It isn’t good news when the tallest player on the team isn’t allowed to rebound.
The Gophers play Southern on Wednesday, and should win easily. The real winner though will be Southern, because no matter what happens on the court, their marching band is the Human Jukebox, and they are fantastic.