No, the Gophers didn’t win. The final score was almost stretched to double digits again, and Illinois went on a 10-2 run at the end to put the Gophers away.
But the Gophers proved a lot of things in their double-overtime fight against the Illini – a team that was ranked until their loss to Missouri last week. The Gophers didn’t win, but they did show they’re not exactly the pushover some predicted.
Some quick notes from the game:
- Ralph Sampson III had by far his best game of the year, despite his sluggish start. The senior lifted the team to overtime and finished with a game-high 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
- Rodney Williams had eight points and seven rebounds, but a weaker game in general – and fouled out at the end.
- The Gophers went on an 18-6 run in the second half to tie the game before Sampson held it close to get to overtime.
- Julian Welch had a hot-and-cold game, looking erratic at first and at the end, but finding some big shots near the end of regulation.
- Andre Hollins, who came off the bench, scored the most points he has in six games, with nine.
- The Gophers forced 21 turnovers, but only turned those into 16 points
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Iowa is built around veteran talent that coach Fran McCaffery has slowly grown through a lot of regional and in-state recruiting.
After yet another near miss -- this time against Michigan -- even coach Richard Pitino seemed exasperated by the Gophers' late commitment to driving to the basket.
Minnesota failed to close out on shooters, adequately communicate and make the right rotations from the start, when Michigan set the tone by hitting nine three-pointers in the first half.
Given the rare break, coach Richard Pitino gave his team two days off immediately after and then rolled out what he dubbed a "fun" practice on Sunday before getting down to business on Monday and Tuesday.
Minnesota's offense has been mostly dreadful all year, but scrappy defense has at times kept the Gophers close in many games. Can they build on that tonight?