Check out my full story on tonight's loss at Nebraska here.
Coach Richard Pitino knows it. The players know it.
The Gophers, while showing moments of brilliance, are not yet close to being a complete team.
That much was obvious in an 82-78 loss at Nebraska on Sunday.
The past two weeks have felt something like a roller coster for Minnesota. A big win -- their first ranked win -- against Ohio State was followed by a 21-point loss at Iowa. And then a massive victory against Wisconsin on Wednesday, one that could have potentially gotten the Gophers ranked tomorrow, was stripped of its shine after tonight, when Minnesota gave one of their ugliest performance of the season.
Minnesota can't take the next step unless it can find a way to consistently produce at a high level on both ends of the court.
Yes, Andre Hollins was out. But with Smith going off for a huge night, the Gophers had an opportunity. Before this game, I thought a big night for Smith would be one of the big keys to a win. Unfortunately for Minnesota, it couldn't muster any production around the hot guard.
Said Pitino: "There's a reason why we're 4-4 in the league. We guard vs. Wisconsin. We didn't do a great job tonight. And you're going to sit around .500 until you can consistently defend, night in and night out."
Said Ellliott Eliason: "I think it shows you how far we have to go as a team to be competitive at a high level. We've got a long ways to go still. Every time I think we're there we do something like this and it just shows we're not there."
Other notes' on tonight's game:
*For such a poor all-around game for the Gophers, there was one clear bright spot: Malik Smith. The shooting guard played phenomenally in his new starting role, finishing with 29 points, two rebounds and three steals. Imagine what the Gophers would have looked like if Smith DIDN'T have an amazing night. For about 35 minutes, he was really the only offensive threat on a night in which Nebraska's shots were falling in impressive fashion.
*Until the final 1:25, the Gophers had no other player other than Smith with more than eight points. DeAndre Mathieu finished with 13, and Austin Hollins finished with nine.
*Never has Mathieu's importance been so obvious. The point guard his worst game of the year, almost recording a double-double -- but not the kind the Gophers are hoping for. Mathieu, whose ball screens were trapped by the Huskers all night, had a stunning nine turnovers, which played a major role in the loss for Minnesota, which had 13 turnovers in all.
*One of the side effects of Hollins being out is Maverick Ahanmisi is going to have to play a lot more -- and better. Tonight, the backup point guard played 14 minutes, but didn't contribute much defensively or offensively, finishing with zero points, two rebounds and one turnover. Pitino's new rotation is going to take some time to figure out as long as Hollins is on the bench.
*After the game, Smith said Pitino didn't yell in the locker room, as he sometimes does after tough losses. Instead, the coach approached his players and gave them the "disappointed" card instead. "That definitely hurts more than anything because it's usually just him yelling. But him coming in there an to be pretty much honest with us and not yell, it just shows how really disappointed he is in us. We didn't like that."