Read my full story on the Gophers' 78-70 loss at Wisconsin here. (Will be updated as the most recent version is edited.)
Home-court advantage is no joke.
You know it. I know it. Ken Pomeroy knows it.
But man, if the Gophers are going to take themselves off the bubble of all of this tournament talk (what a roller coaster that has been), they've got to show they can win on the road.
Right now, they haven't come close.
Minnesota's only road win in league play came at Penn State, one of the worst college basketball environments I've ever been in, and against one of the bottom-dwellers of the conference. The only other true road win they've claimed all year is at Richmond -- which certainly was quality, but wow, doesn't that feel like a long time ago?
The Gophers did nothing but perpetuate the idea that they can't win on the road on Thursday night, showing up looking nothing like the team that slapped around the Badgers at the Barn a few weeks ago. The defense was back to being [what was that word I used again?] after a decent second half against Indiana. The offense was entirely lackluster up until the final three minutes or so. The Gophers' inside game completely evaporated after four games of looking like Hey-Maybe-This-Is-Real-Now. And hey, what's new, Minnesota fouled a lot couldn't dole out a consistent effort.
What has it been about the Gophers that they crumble so dramatically in unfamiliar arenas? Certainly, the Big Ten houses some very tough place to play, but other teams have found a way this season. Minnesota seems to check its aggressiveness at the door.
The Gophers have just three road games left -- at Northwestern on Sunday, and then at Ohio State and at Michigan to round out the regular season. A victory at Northwestern is essential at this point, but it also doesn't turn many heads. And finding success at Value City Arena or Crisler won't come much easier.
A few other notes from tonight's game:
*Andre Hollins is probably the bright spot of the night, finishing with 22 points and four rebounds. That is very encouraging for the Gophers. In the first, he showed that finding his role and his groove on the team after missing most of three games with an ankle injury is still going to be a process. It seemed like he was forcing things a bit early, but when he calmed down in the second, he became much more efficient, and the spark down the stretch that Minnesota could have used early.
*I was surprised that coach Richard Pitino didn't try to put Mo Walker back in late in the first half [when he had two fouls, but so did Elliott Eliason and Joey King]. He opted for Eliason, but the Gophers' offense really had no scorers at the time. Pitino said his plan was to keep Walker out for the second so that he could ensure his big man would be really aggressive. In fact, that never happened, with Pitino saying Walker was playing timid and afraid to foul.
*Wisconsin scored 1.18 points per possession despite getting just three offensive rebounds.