Read my full story on Minnesota’s 76-63 home loss to Wisconsin here.
Three quick observations after the air was let out of this balloon:
So Gopher-y. Raise your hand if you’ve seen any of this before. Minnesota sinks itself into a double-digit hole with poor defense/subpar play. Minnesota suddenly perks up and starts playing just well enough to ward off the instinct to nap. Minnesota then makes a big run and threatens to take over the game. To break out of the rut. To do something special. Everyone is awake now. Then Minnesota goes off into the night. I feel for Gophers fans. This team makes you dream. It convinces its followers that it’s just on the verge of something. Some teams you can tune out. Not Minnesota. These Gophers suck their fans in, and give them just enough to keep them around and keep them tortured.
Where were the vets? There is one more game left in the regular season after tonight, but this game was an ode to the future. One senior, Elliott Eliason, hasn’t gotten in the game at all in the last two contests. Another senior, Andre Hollins, managed just five points on 2-for-9 shooting. DeAndre Mathieu, who has lost his starting spot to freshman Nate Mason, played second fiddle at his position. And Mo Walker looked incapable of even halting a surging Frank Kaminsky at times. Having four seniors could probably be considered the advantage in a game like this – a border rival and ranked team stepping onto Minnesota’s home court in an opportunity that could change the feel surrounding the program. But the bright spots for the Gophers on Thursday? Both freshmen, with Mason leading the way.
Brighter days ahead with Bakary Konate. As the season has gone on, coach Richard Pitino has shown he’s willing to live and die with his youth. Thursday, Gophers fans saw a greater glimpse of why. The freshman center was arguably the team’s best player after Mason, exhibiting post moves that look better by the day and solid defense on Kaminsky, the likely national Player of the Year. With Walker getting ducked in on and posted up over, it was a welcome substitution at times. Konate still has a long ways to go, but in a year that hasn’t gone as planned, he’s certainly become a silver lining.