On first blush, it looks like the Gophers outlasted a very beatable Furman Paladins team 86-76. Anyone who followed the game, however, knows it was much more of a nail-biter than that. At times, it even looked like Furman might end up stretching a late lead and send Minnesota packing on its own court. That certainly wouldn’t have been outside of the early-season narrative for the Big Ten, which has fallen victim to a slew of early upsets at the hands of bad teams.
Yes, the Gophers failed to annihilate a lowly low-major opponent for the fifth time in a row, but in their defense, the Paladins played a nearly statistically impossible game in the second half that was supported by a keen ability to make circus shots and shoot better than 70 percent from the field. They almost literally could not miss, which helped them frustrate a Gopher team that forced 19 turnovers and did some legitimate scoring on its own.
If it wasn’t for Nate Mason, actually, this could have been a very different game. The freshman (who was named this week’s Big Ten Freshman of the Week), scored 14 points off the bench, including a slew of timely three pointers down the stretch to put Minnesota back in the driver’s seat twice, and extend its lead the third time. On a night where the ball felt a little slippery, and Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker were less than dominant down low, Mason’s ability to hit the big shot was refreshing.
Joey King scored what ended up being a quiet 19 points, considering that he had 12 right off the bat to begin the game. And Deandre Mathieu, who looked a little out of control at times, filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 7 assists and 5 steals, including some nifty attacks of the basket down the stretch.
Furman’s Stephen Croone, though, was the story of the game, as he racked up a nasty 25 points, 15 of which came from three pointers, which were nearly devastating. He couldn’t continue the magic in the end, thankfully, and Furman did not cash in on it’s threat to upset Minnesota.
While it’s nice to blow out team after team, having to actually use your brain down the stretch may actually favor the Gophers this time around. Only one more game stands in the way of the Big Ten season, where teams won’t be rolling over quite so often. And situations where decisions are magnified have been few and far between for the Gophers this year. Ultimately, you want to win the close games and learn from them, which is hopefully what happened tonight. There wasn’t a sense of panic from the Gophers — it was more of a, “come on, really?” type attitude, where they looked confident, not broken. In a season where Big Ten teams have fallen left and right to low-majors, that type of response is good to see as we get to the meat of the schedule.
- The chucking version of Carlos Morris made a few appearances tonight, which wasn’t great to see. However, he also showed his silkier side; the ability to get through the lane and make things happen. Hopefully he continues with the latter.
- I thought this would be another blowout and we’d get to see some major minutes for Buggs and Konate. That’ll have to wait, however, as neither played down the stretch in a close game.
- Gaston Diedhiou did not play again for the second game in a row. Not surprising, considering the score.
- Furman had a guy named Geoff Beans. He was just as big of a tool as you’d imagine.