It was just the kind of thing that would make a team struggling with focus or the necessary mental drive stumble.

Three long, sunny days in Miami, with just a second-round in a second-tier tournament at stake.

But the team we watched on Monday -- and have been seeing for the last couple weeks -- showed nothing off the inconsistent regular-season Gophers, who coach Tubby Smith at times said lacked focus, and displayed only a pure, wholehearted resolve to finish this thing out strong.

Next, the 6-seed Gophers will face Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Wednesday in the quarterfinals, The winner will head to Madison Square Garden in New York for the Final Four.

The Gophers have attacked the NIT for exactly what it is: an opportunity to keep playing, and to capitalize on the great strides they've made recently.

Some notes on the 78-60 win over 2-seed Miami:

  • Rodney Williams has taken his game to a new level in the past three games. His energy, intensity and willingness to be "the guy" has given the Gophers a major boost. He finished with 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting, which made him the first player since Dan Coleman in 2007 to score 20 or more in three consecutive games, and had a couple awe-evoking dunks (although only one counted).
  • I've been saying this a lot lately, but Andre Hollins has matured incredibly. The way he's handling the ball, his aggressiveness driving to the basket, his smart decisions, his defense ... I'd say I'm incredibly excited to watch him next year but we're clearly not done with this season yet. He did have six turnovers tonight -- which might have been more magnified if not for the final score -- but his "good" definitely overshadowed the "bad" in this case.
  • Joe Coleman, who has been inconsistent as of late had a really nice game with 14 points and six rebounds.
  • With or without Durand Scott, this Miami team did not resemble the one that beat Duke and FSU and almost snuck into the NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes's shots weren't falling, but they weren't having an easy time getting the ball in anywhere ... or stopping the Gophers' pursuits. The Hurricanes shot 34.4 percent from the field and 16 percent from three-point range.
  • Terrible attendance at Bank United Center tonight. 1,649. Could Williams Arena do better?

 

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NC State showing they belong with those other two teams from North Carolina

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Postgame: Gophers headed to NIT Final Four