Here’s the thing about this Gophers game against Duke today:

Yes, the team looked sloppy at times (but they have all year right? – there’s no hint yet that that is not who they are as a team). And yes, they could have used bigger performances from guys in the lineup not named Rodney or Andre.

But I’m not sure they really could have played much better. Not without a healthy and explosive Trevor Mbakwe in the starting lineup.

Mbakwe scored 11 points and added three rebounds off the bench. But the Gophers ability to seriously challenge the Blue Devils was seriously affected by their ability to score consistently.

In other words, the Gophers didn’t play that badly. Duke’s just better.

The Gophers’ offensive performance tonight was not far off from what it has been, with two starters scoring in double digits – Andre Hollins with 12 and Rodney Williams with 16 and two other significant performances off the bench in Mbakwe and Maverick Ahanmisi (10).

But when their signature defense of 2012-13 failed to impact hot-shooting Duke, that wasn’t enough. The Gophers have the tools to compete with elite teams, but at times the plethora of combinations used throughout the course of the game looked disjointed on offense – which of course led to turnovers, particularly in the first half.

Duke obviously had a great game shooting-wise, but the Gophers will face plenty of other teams capable of doing that this season, and will need more production to keep up.

Other notes from today’s 89-71 Thanksgiving loss to Duke:

• The Gophers actually won the rebounding battle against Duke, 35-32, even though it didn’t always feel like it – with Mason Plumlee snatching everything in sight. The Gophers also had 15 assists over Duke’s 12 and six blocks over Duke’s.

• That is where the edging out stops for the Gophers. Duke had a marvelous day shooting, making 54.5 percent of its shots from the field and 80 percent (eight of ten) of its 3-pointers. Every time the Gophers looked on the verge of a run, the Blue Devils hit a big shot. They wouldn’t let the Gophers string anything together at all.

• Plumlee had a huge day for Duke, finishing with 20 points and 17 rebounds. The kid was really impressive, and the Gophers did about everything they thought of to stop him – playing Elliott Eliason, Trevor Mbakwe and Mo Walker against him, and using both Mbakwe and Walker for a stretch in the second half – but none of it worked.

• Andre Hollins had another encouraging game for the Gophers – and against a team like Duke, that shows good improvement. Hollins had two 3-pointers, which the Gophers desperately needed. But the most impressive thing about the sophomore’s performance was that he had four assists to just one turnover.

• Ahanmisi also looked pretty good in stretches today, both on the defensive end and in a couple of drives to the basket. His three-point play in the first half was what got the Gophers within four points, and had the game looking within their grasp … until Quinn Cook hit a 3-pointer a couple of seconds later.

• Every one of Duke’s starters scored in double digits. Plumlee (20), Ryan Kelly (14), Quinn Cook (17), Rasheed Sulaimon (11) and Seth Curry (who seemed like he hit everything he tried, with 25).

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