This was an important win for the Gophers.
It helped to immediately put the bad loss at Iowa behind them and hopefully pushes them into the rough road ahead with some confidence. It won’t be easy for the Gophers – who play four of their last seven games against Wisconsin (2), Michigan State and Ohio State.
They will need to finish 4-3 the rest of the way – that means winning at least one of those last four games I mentioned – in order to finish .500. At 9-9 in the conference, they would have a good shot at the NCAA tournament.
There were certainly good signs in the win, but there are significant concerns as well, ones that could haunt them much more down the road.
Some notes from the 69-61 win over Nebraska:
• The bench scored 40 in this one, two games after scoring 39 against Illinois. In the last few games, the reserves have become a major part of this team, especially with the starters struggling as they have. That’s a great sign. Now the why-they’ve-needed-to part? Not so great.
• Per this last point, Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams – who finished with eight points and three rebounds each – each struggled some again, and Joe Coleman – while getting seven rebounds -- was held scoreless for the second consecutive game.
• Chip Armelin had another big game, leading the team with 15 points and five rebounds, and providing a noticeable lift in the second half with his intensity.
• The Gophers picked up substantially as a whole halfway through the second. A three-point play by Maverick Ahanmisi led off an 8-0 all-reserve Gophers run and the Gophers rolled from there – shooting 66.7 percent for the half -- with Sampson and Williams getting more involved in the final minutes. Minnesota held the Huskers to 30.8 percent shooting in the second half after watching them make almost 60 percent of their shots in the first.
• The Gophers had 14 turnovers, something that has been a big problem for them all season, especially from the point guard spot. Welch had four of them today, to two assists.