Is there any sense in writing another postgame blog about the same old game? Does anyone want to read this again?
It never fails -- just as I am finishing the final tweaks of a buoyant "Gophers are finally playing like the team they need to be" story for my running edition (the one I have to file immediately as the game ends), this team goes and does ... this.
You only get so many chances, so many golden opportunities in one season, and the Gophers have had more than their fair share, probably. Unfortunately, they don't have much to show for it.
And they're running out of answers as quickly as I'm running out of ways to describe how they lose different games the same way, over and over.
"It’s just fighting hard and coming together as a team at the end and saying ‘We’re going to have to stop this from happening,’" Ralph Sampson III said. "You’ve got to get over that final hump at the end and come out with a win."
So why can't they? Not in this game, not in the Wisconsin game, not in the first game of the Big Ten season.
"I don’t have that answer right now," Sampson said.
"They just panicked," he said. "And they turned up the pressure a little bit because they were behind, got a little more physical, a little more aggressive. And we just folded. We folded under pressure."
Some notes from the 66-61 loss:
- The Gophers actually looked really good through the first half, and had a seven-point lead with six minutes left in the game. But they seemed to have no confidence then, in keeping it. As Smith insinuated, the panicked down the stretch, turning the ball over six times in the final six minutes and rushing things at the end.
- With 24 seconds on the clock, Austin Hollins got the ball in a potential tying situation. He rushed a three-pointer that barely hit the rim. "It might have been a little too quick," he said.
- The Spartans hit eight free throws in the final 32 seconds to ice it.
- The Gophers had just three turnovers in the first half, but committed 12 in the second.
- Otherwise, Hollins had a pretty good game -- hitting four three-pointers and scoring 17 points.
- Sampson looked better than he has in almost a month -- his soft hook was back and strong and he was hitting the boards. If he could just be that leader the Gophers need ...
- The Gophers went into the zone in the first half and it made me wonder why they don't do it more often. Michigan State honestly looked lost.