For the first half of the first half, it was hard to tell if the Gophers had started an entirely new game against a different opponent or if they were simply continuing the struggle against Furman. Their new opponent, UNC-Wilmington looked like the Paladins, just in new uniforms. They couldn’t miss, even if they tried, and uncomfortably far into the game, were shooting 78% from the field. It was that ridiculous.
So ridiculous, in fact, that the Gophers hadn’t even committed a turnover and found themselves trailing 29-20 as the Seahawks rained three pointers. Part of it was poor defensive rotations by the Gophers, but UNCW was also shooting the lights out.
Spurred by an increased tenacity, though, the Gophers evaporated the lead almost instantaneously, and the Seahawks barely knew what hit them. Behind nice transition offense and 10 first half steals, the Gophers forced 16 first half turnovers and only gave it back twice en route to a 34-9 run to close out the half. The second half was more of the same, with the Gophers holding court and eclipsing 100 points for the second time this season, en route to a 108-82 win.
Mo Walker almost literally could not be stopped and the Seahawks could do very little to stop him. A man among boys in the front court, he racked up 17 points on 6-8 shooting while pulling down 6 rebounds.
Carlos Morris, a walking Jekyll and Hyde act, was more good than bad. Even though he showed that the tendency to put up a too-early three-point attempt hasn’t completely left him, his dangerous skills in the transition were evident, as he scored a game, and career-high 24 points, en route to player of the game honors. Also, this was fun:
Deandre Mathieu, while he didn’t light anything up from a scoring standpoint, was the key to the offense. He kept things moving and up-tempo and was responsible for several buckets in transition after forcing turnovers. He filled up the stat sheet, scoring 13 points, dishing out 11 assists and nabbing 4 steals. Mathieu now leads all B1G players in assist-turnover ratio.
Overall, though, the Gophers gave the Seahawks fits on defense, and did nothing to dissuade their position as the top stealing team in the nation. UNCW was off balance for most of the game, and after they stopped making every shot they took, couldn’t do much against the defense. Further, the Gophers took tremendous care of the ball, which was great to see after having some handling issues earlier this year. In fact, the team only turned the ball over 8 times all game.
The Gophers end the non-conference season at a reasonable 11-2, with their only blemishes to ranked teams in Louisville (who may very well be the best team in the nation) and St. John’s, who is much better than everyone initially thought. They now kick off the Big Ten season on the road against Purdue, where we’ll see what they’re really made of. The team is pretty much playing the best it has all season, with the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense as intense as ever.
- Charles Buggs was drinking whatever he was before the Iowa game last year as he had perhaps the best game of his career, scoring 13 points on 5-6 shooting including three three-pointers and a nice dunk.
- Mathieu suffered an apparent wrist injury late in the game, though it was unclear how severe it was. He stayed on the bench after being taken out as a precaution.
- Nate Mason scored 18 points, hitting double figures for the fifth time in six games. He has nine of those altogether this season.