At some point, you have to look at the product on the court. On the court now.
Asked whether he thought the Gophers’ recent performances were not indicative of what they are capable of, coach Tubby Smith shook his head.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re playing that way. So it’s pretty obvious we haven’t gotten much better.”
Instead, it seems the Gophers have gotten worse. They continue to look extremely likely to make the NCAA tournament, based on their early-season success and strength of schedule, but this current squad looks nothing like the one that gave them that padding.
The same deficiencies – inconsistent shooting and turnovers – have continued to plague the Gophers, while at times threatening to become worse, such as tonight when Minnesota tossed away a season-high 24 turnovers.
At the same time, the spirit and the fight has been drained. A team that made adjustments, had strong seconds halves and finished with fire now looks weary and accepting as they plod ahead to their fate.
Coach Tubby Smith seems out of answers – admitting that the team “didn’t do much differently” after an Iowa loss that he called the most disappointing of his career and players dubbed “embarrassing.”
And the players are running out of ways to explain away the same old problems. Asked what has changed about this unrecognizable team, Andre Hollins thought for several seconds before replying “I guess our mental toughness. I guess that’s the difference, just [not] being mentally tough.”
As the minutes waned in the blowout, the players seemed to panic – realizing they couldn’t turn everything around with one or two plays, but appearing to try anyway. Every possession was rushed, and poorly executed. Shots fell without touching iron. Ohio State controlled them, and the Buckeyes realized it, toying with the Gophers’ as they ran out on a 16-0 stretch and holding a resolve to “keep punching them and punching them” as Deshaun Thomas put it.
Ohio State was another team coming off a poor stretch (losing three of four) and facing a must-win game. But the Buckeyes were the only ones that played with any urgency – and the Gophers are starting to look the part of the loser.
There’s only so long a team can perform in such a manner, and call it a fluke.
Other notes on tonight’s 71-45 loss:
- Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman each picked up two fouls within the first four minutes of the game, and played eight and 12 minutes respectively, overall. Each went scoreless. Williams wasn’t expected to start, but Smith decided at the last minute that he was ready. Apparently Williams hadn’t practiced to contact leading up to the game. Smith said Williams’ shoulder wasn’t a factor in the forward’s limited minutes.
- The Gophers have now lost eight in 11 games. In their last four losses, they have not scored more than 53 or made more than 38 percent of their shots.
- Ohio State has now won six straight against the Gophers overall and six straight at Value City Arena.
- Minnesota was held without a single field goal for 10:39 of play in the second half, during the 16-0 run.
- Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague and Associate AD Mike Ellis were in Columbus and sat courtside for the debacle.
- Mo Walker scored seven points – his most since the non-conference schedule – after playing 17 minutes. Overall, the bench contributed 25 points to the starters’ 20. Ohio State’s bench scored 31.
- The Gophers shot a season-low 29.2 percent from the field.
- The Gophers play No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday at the Barn.