The Gophers know that the Big Ten schedule brings plenty of challenges ahead – many of which include vastly greater defenses than the ones they’ve faced thus far – which is why they’re clearly motivated to improve their efforts from long range.
A game after going 1-for-13 from behind the arc, the Gophers made 10 3-pointers (45.5 of their shots from the distance) while also finding their best shooting percentage from the field of the season Tuesday against South Dakota State.
But the task of improving in that category is approached with less panic than there was a season ago, when the Gophers were much more inferior defensively than this version.
“I think it’s important,” Austin Hollins said. “I mean, we’ve won games without hitting three-point shots, so it’s not the main priority. We get a lot of points off of forcing turnovers in the paint. So I don’t think it’s the main priority, but it definitely helps when we’re making threes.”
This team’s bread and butter is and will continue to be hard-nosed defense. What the Gophers lack offensively has mostly been overlooked, either because early struggles gave way to adjustment – while defense held them in the game – or because their stinginess on the other end is forgiving enough to, quite simply, allow some flaws.
At the same time, the Gophers have to be careful not to get lackadaisical in that regard. In games where their defense isn’t as effective against more prolific offenses, the Gophers will need to have a good balance.
So far, they’ve shown they know that they know that – even if they don’t always execute that knowledge the way they should. But nights like Tuesday show just how dynamic a team can be when it’s working on both ends. When the Gophers get out in transition they are very good, and when they have the option of a 3-pointer off the fast break or in the high-low, that just makes them all the more dangerous.
And as they saw against SDSU, a flurry of threes – the Gophers being on the right side of the barrage this time -- can be simply debilitating to opponents.
“We have been on that side, when people are hitting shots, it is discouraging, and it’s tough to come back from something like that, especially when you can’t stop it," Austin Hollins said.”
Right now, the Gophers have the right mindset: start with intense defense and the offense will follow. Shooting is an important part of their game, but focusing on it can’t get them away from the basics that have gotten them to this point so far.
“It starts with defense,” Andre Hollins said. “(Tuesday) I picked up defensively, I picked it up all the way. I was pressuring the ball and I think that kind of got me going offensively also.”