Bring on the better competition, AmIRight?
The Gophers won their third blowout – over Tennessee State this time -- tonight, and while they still have areas to improve, it’s tough to find that motivation when you’re winning by 30 every night.
Rodney Williams was the offensive leader tonight, but as a team the Gophers showed again how much stronger their chemistry is from a year ago, and how well they can play together.
• Defense was the name of the game once again for the Gophers, who stifled Tennessee State offense, especially late. The Gophers finished with 13 steals and seven blocked shots, harassing in the low post and keeping the Tigers from getting into an offensive rhythm. Elliott Eliason, Mo Walker and Trevor Mbakwe were all terrific causing havoc in the paint.
• Williams finished with a team-high 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals (despite four turnovers) and pushed his shooting percentage for the year to 80, yes 80 percent. He dunked five times and kept the energy flowing at the end of the game. Most importantly, though, was probably his stellar defense – getting on Tennesee State star Robert Covington (who finished with 10 points). The senior’s improvement from last year to this year is hard not to notice.
• Like a game ago, the Gophers showed some fine outside shooting in the first half, and then dropped off some in the second. Still, we can’t complain too much about the six 3-pointers Minnesota made (all in the first). And it’s plenty encouraging to see Austin Hollins (who had two) really starting to hit his stride again from range after connecting three times against Toledo.
• Andre Hollins – who had two 3s of his own – had a really encouraging game tonight as well, finishing with 13 points (all in the first half), five assists and four rebounds (and three turnovers). “I think he’s understanding more what a point guard role should be,” Tubby Smith said.
• The Gophers again rebounded well, finishing with a 46-37 advantage. Williams led with seven, but Julian Welch and Oto Osenieks each had five.
• Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. One game after posting 19, the Gophers again struggled, with 17 blunders. Smith doesn’t seem too concerned about the turnovers – at least less so than he was a year ago – because, he said the team is making mistakes while trying to execute good things (rather than just laziness).
• Free throws. The Gophers got to the line 14 times in the second half, but made just seven of those shots.