Well, how do you guys look at it?
Was today impressive because of the 23-point comeback (and near shot at the victory)? Or embarrassing because had the Gophers exuded that effort all game long, they might have walked away from Assembly Hall with their fourth conference win?
Personally, I think it was some of both.
That the Gophers seemingly returned from the dead warrants plenty of praise. Their second-half performance, in fact, was actually quite solid. They pressed the Hoosiers effectively, held them to 28.6 percent shooting (just six baskets), they converted six 3-pointers and displayed the grit they had lacked in the first half. Having a chance to win it with 15 seconds on the clock? That seemed a next-to-impossible outcome at halftime. So, props for that, Gophers for showing the basketball world what they could do on a big stage.
But on the flipside, starting slowly is becoming a bit of a worrisome trend for Minnesota. Up until this point, the Gophers have been able to disguise it a little bit with their defense -- playing so stingily that they were able to whether some lapses in offense. But against a super-efficient team like Indiana (and others in the Big Ten) it’s a different deal. Indiana didn’t seem intimidated by their D at all in the first, making a stunning 65.6 percent of its shots from the field. The Hoosiers defense, meanwhile, had the Gophers looking off-kilter – Indiana mixed it up a lot, even switching from man-to-man to zone within a possession. And eventually the Gophers adjusted – quite well. But if they’re going to challenge Indiana and Michigan for the title, they need to make those adjustments faster.
And if this fanbase wants to believe the Gophers are in position to do that, it’s time to acknowledge that making it close against the country’s No. 5 team isn’t worth of a pat on the back – it’s expected.
Some other notes from today’s 88-81 loss:
- They key: At the end, it all came down to a rebound. The Gophers had steadily made their return and got within three on a pair of free throws by Andre Hollins with 18 seconds remaining. When Indiana’s Jordan Hulls got the ball on the next possession, he was quickly fouled, but uncharacteristically missed both shots, giving the Gophers a chance at a tie with 15 seconds left. But before that thought was even fully hatched, it was squashed, with Hulls getting the rebound off an odd bounce as Trevor Mbakwe and Cody Zeller were battling for it. Given the second chance, he made both of his shots from the stripe.
- Yes, there were a lot of whistles tonight – and most of them went against the Gophers. Referees are human, and so of course mistakes happen. Generally, though, things even out over the long run, and a single call – or even a string of bad calls – is rarely a major reason for any win or loss. That said, Indiana got a strikingly greater number of opportunities on Saturday, getting to the line 40 times to the Gophers’ 15. In fact, Indiana star center Cody Zeller didn’t even have a single foul on him until 32 seconds before the game ended. The discrepancy had Twitter abuzz, with many viewing some of those as ticky-tack and interrupting of otherwise good play. Still, there were whistles on both sides that could have been blown that weren’t. “They had a little home cooking but it was alright,” Andre Hollins said. “We fought back.”
- For the second consecutive game, the bench has produced very little. Against Illinois, the Gophers didn’t get a single point from a reserve; tonight, the bench was responsible for eight points – six from Maverick Ahanmisi and two from Andre Ingram. Part of that is because Smith has been playing the reserves slightly less than he has been, and the contributions may be tougher to get without allowing the reserves to get adjusted in the game.
- The Gophers have played out another trend with turnovers lately. While Minnesota has turned over at a very high rate all year, the Gophers have been especially egregious in the first half lately. Today they had 12 in the first and seven in the second. “That’s just unacceptable,” Andre Hollins said.
- Nothing changed after today: Minnesota has never beaten a top-5 team on the road.