Read my full story on Minnesota's 82-74 loss to Michigan here.
Three quick observations after the Gophers dropped to a program-worst 0-12 start to Big Ten play:
Lots of torture on late deadlines. This is over. I know how this ends. Hey, I'm not rooting against them but for once, this deadline is gonna be a breeze. Oh look, they're back within 9. That's nice. Scrappy. Maybe I'll throw a tweet up. Plenty of time. Back within 6? Dang those shots keep falling huh? Aaaaand it's a two-point game. [***expletives***]. I've got to rewrite. My deadline in seven minutes and none of these words are relevant anymore. Oh my god, they're finally going to win a game. They're going to win a game and I've got to write about it in seven minutes. They're going to win and I have to flip flop all the stats I've just scratched out and change the tone and ...oh nevermind. And here we are at deadline. Hope our copy editors are on their game tonight.
-- The mind of a sports reporter on first deadline during an 8 p.m. game.
Free throws! Exclamation points are called for when one factor has so often been a team's demise in late games. Tonight, the Gophers found ways to lose after pulling within 2 with 1:37 but those ways WEREN'T free throws. In fact, Minnesota had its best game of Big Ten play -- by far -- from the stripe (84.2 percent), one of a handful of silver linings that included the facts that the Gophers out-rebounded Michigan 33-28, out-scored the Wolverines 44-26 in the paint and charged back from down 19 to make the game competitive in the final seconds. Of course, as coach Richard Pitino pointed out again tonight, an 0-12 team needs more than silver linings. The Gophers had a big chance to pick up their first victory before facing No. 4 Iowa and No. 2 Maryland in the next two games, and they fell short. As Pitino has said many times lately, it's a "broken record."
Defense, defense, defense. On Tuesday, Pitino said that defense had become the Gophers "identity" during their stretch of improved play before the Northwestern blowout last Thursday. Wednesday against Michigan, it was the Gophers' defense that buried them. Minnesota failed to close out on shooters, adequately communicate and make the right rotations from the start, when Michigan set the tone by hitting nine three-pointers in the first half. But the second wasn't much better. While the Gophers started attacking the basket and getting much more efficient on offense, defensively they still had plenty of holes, allowing Michigan to shoot an even better percentage from the field in the last 20 minutes. At the moment, the Gophers really don't really have an identity -- one aspect they can rely on when times get tough. That deficit can be a problem when the game is tight down the stretch.