Read my full story on the Gophers' 62-49 loss to Illinois here.
At this point, the Gophers' tournament chances are hanging by a string.
I hesitate to say they're out entirely -- because really, they're not, they could win at Ohio State or vs. Iowa or at Michigan and then finish off Penn State and probably slip in -- but they certainly did themselves no favors tonight, getting soundly polished off by the Big Ten's worst team without so much of a whimper.
*The first eight minutes. Yep, things were pretty good at that point. The Gophers were up 14-3, were totally clicking and looked like the far superior team. Then DeAndre Mathieu sat with two fouls and well, see below.
*Austin Hollins still can't shoot, but he found ways to do some other things tonight, driving inside for a couple of scores and getting the Gophers going early with a pair of dunks. Unfortunately he went 0-for-4 from three-point range.
*Mo Walker was fine, but no one gave him the ball.
(I am avoiding the temptation to simple right "everything else," but that's probably a pretty fair assessment.)
*Shooting: From wherever. Two pointers. Three pointers. And boy, did the Gophers like the three-pointers, putting up 25 of them and making only four.
*Speaking of which, Minnesota did this because it couldn't get the ball inside for anything. With so many clanks from the perimeter, Illinois was able to just collapse on Walker. I still think the Gophers could have worked harder at that -- Walker was pretty effective, even in plenty of traffic, when Minnesota did get him the ball -- but by the end they were just settling.
*DeAndre Mathieu cannot deal with traps off of ball screens. To his credit, he stood there and bluntly said that tonight. Coach Richard Pitino seemed absolutely baffled when asked what the guard needed to do to attack that. This is a big problem for the Gophers and probably will continue to be as opponents watch tape of teams doing this.
*Free-throw shooting. Seven-for-twelve. This is becoming a trend, and maybe a sign that the Gophers are in their heads a little bit.
*Illinois became the hottest shooting team ever. Yes, this was the squad that was last in the Big Ten in shooting behind the arc. No matter. Wednesday, the Illini hit everything. Kendrick Nunn contributed 22.7 percent of his three-pointers for the year. Aka, the Gophers defense was pretty darn bad. The Illini hit 8-of-13 overall from three-point range after going 6-for-9 in the first, and then when they weren't falling in the second, they backed off that game plan and just went to Nnanna Egwu, who was great. Brilliant.
*Malik Smith is definitely going through a slump at this point. He went 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-6) from three, was taking some ridiculous, 25-foot shots in the first and just hasn't been right for a while. Still, I wouldn't put it past him to rebound on Saturday.