Read my game story here. It will be updated again before the final goes into the paper tonight.
Andre Hollins shook his head, the trademark grin wiped from his face, his expression saying he knew what the questions would be before they had been asked.
At this point, the issues are nothing new: the inconsistency, the lack of leadership, the dropping status in the polls/seeding/eyes of the public/NCAA selection committee/fill-in-the-blank.
The overall postgame reaction, win or lose – because they’ve flip-flopped so incredibly dramatically – seems to almost always be the same.
The reasons, lately, have changed. It’s no longer turnovers that are the Gophers’ biggest foe; it’s been poor shooting. Today, they picked that up in the second half, making 42.9 percent from 3-point range, but their defense was atrocious (Purdue made 54.2 percent of its shots from the field and all five starters finished with points in double digits).
The one constant is that the Gophers struggle to put it all together and they struggle to consistently find a player who will play the role of the leader. Even when they find one, coach Tubby Smith seemingly doesn't treat that person like a leader. He won’t call plays designed for that person, trust them under pressure or give them any leeway to overcome a slow stretch.
Trevor Mbakwe has been that force recently, but when he got two fouls in the first five minutes of Saturday’s loss to Purdue, he was benched until halftime, able only to watch as the Gophers’ deficit ballooned from five points to 21.
“He didn’t do much today,” Smith said. “He was 1-for-6 in the first half, so he wasn’t much of a spark. They threw the ball in the post and Trevor’s been struggling defending the post all year. … So no, I didn’t consider putting him back in.”
Other notes from today’s 89-73 loss:
- Paired with Iowa’s win over Nebraska today, the Gophers are now locked into the 9th seed in the Big Ten tournament.
- Who they play will depend on what Illinois does tomorrow at Ohio State. If the Illini win, they will take the seven seed and Minnesota will Face Purdue. If the Illini lose, they will tie with both Minnesota and Purdue. The Boilermakers would get the nod for the No. 7 seed in that scenario because of their 2-1 head-to-head with Ilinois and Minnesota, and the Gophers would face the Illini.
- After Saturday’s loss, the Gophers finished with a 1-8 record on the road in the Big Ten schedule (losing their last eight), after going 4-1 over the non-conference slate. Smith, when asked how to turn that trend around now that the Gophers won’t have any more home games, seemed out of answers. “We just keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “You can always improve, you can always change, but we’ve been working to do that a lot. It seemed like we got it changed for a while, with a good win against Indiana, a good win against Penn State, but then we revert back."
- Smith continued the experiment of taking Andre Hollins off the ball more, and it seemed to be another argument for doing that on a more regular basis. After Maverick Ahanmisi started the second half over Joe Coleman, Hollins started to heat up and play more aggressively on the offensive end, finishing with 24 points and nine assists. “He doesn’t have to handle the ball as much and he’s a little freer to get looks at the basket,” Smith said. “You’re not being harassed by a guy that’s probably quicker than you in Ronnie Johnson, so that makes a difference.” I still think that either Ahanmisi or Julian Welch at the point and in place of Joe Coleman might be the best lineup the Gophers have. That or going bigger with Elliott Eliason in for Coleman.
- Welch didn’t play at all on Saturday. He was sick yesterday, but was exected to play.