Read my game story from the 87-73 loss to Arkansas here.
What a difference a day can make.
Yesterday, the Gophers looked plenty capable, playing No. 8 Syracuse tightly and battling despite a limited frontcourt.
Today was supposed to be a day of great improvement, with center Mo Walker returning to the lineup, but the Gophers didn't show it, instead producing one of their worst defensive performances of the year, particularly in the second half, when Arkansas shot 60.7 percent from the field, while the Gophers mustered just 31.3 percent of their shots. The Razorbacks abused Minnesota's interior, even with an extra body to pack the paint at all times. Arkansas dunked on the Gophers seven times, a number that felt even greater as the damage was being wrought. For a second consecutive game, Minnesota had serious issues with ballhandling, coughing up 16 turnovers after losing the ball 19 times on Monday.
Perhaps most embarassing was that Arkansas did to the Gophers exactly what they try to do to each other in practices. Coming in, it was clear that both teams like to get up and down, score in transition and press the opponent to exhaustion. But the Hogs simply did it better.
By the end, Minnesota simply looked exhausted and discouraged, their body language telling the story postgame, after the second-round loss in the Maui Invitational.
The Gophers play DII host Chaminade tomorrow in the last place game at 1:30 CT.
"Arkansas beat us at our own game," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. "They were tougher. They were scappier ... and just our intensity, I thought we just backed down from them."
Other notes from the 87-73 loss.
- The Gophers were up by just five at the half, despite shooting 65.2 percent from the field. But the advantage was quickly lost in the second, when Arkansas started out on a 10-0 run and never let up.
- Pitino said that Maverick Ahanmisi is healthy and available, despite not playing in either of the previous two games. Ahanmisi was averaging 9.2 minutes per game coming into Maui and had played in every other game.
- Walker had just one point and one rebound in his return. "You can't think you're going to come in and be fresh," Pitino said. "This time of year you're preparing so much, so he's not really in on the preparation part of it."
- Malik Smith cooled down substantially in the second half, but his first-half play should be noted. The guard led at the break with 13 points, including two huge three-pointers and a couple of nice slashes to the basket. In the last two games, Smith has looked more aggressive and more involved, and has provided a big spark.
- Arkansas forward Bobby Portis on the 9 a.m. start: "It felt like an AAU game ... I just feel like it's all mental, it's all in your brain."
- The Gophers are apparently working on a season opener vs. Louisville for the 2014 season that could take place on a military base. Rick Pitino initially told WDRB radio in Kentucky that it was a possibility and Richard Pitino responded in a text, "working on it."