Read my full take on tonight’s 78-64 loss to Florida here.
And my notebook from the game here.
The 2012-13 Gophers have been largely defined by four figures:
It’s possible that only one of them will be back next season.
After the Gophers’ 78-64 loss to Florida on Sunday, knocking Minnesota out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32, seniors Mbakwe and Williams reminisced about their past and talked about their futures, while Andre Hollins looked ahead to his return.
It’s Smith’s status with the team, however, that remains up in the air.
The coach is coming off his 30th career win in the Big Dance on Friday, but his six-year tenure at Minnesota has instead been defined by the lack of them, by experiences so similar to what fans saw against Florida that it’s tough to view a first-round UCLA victory as much salvation.
That win, in fact, was Smith’s first NCAA tournament win at Minnesota, while he brought the Gophers three times and led them to the NIT title game a year ago.
If his job is in any jeopardy now, however, Smith won’t acknowledge it.
Asked if he had any indication to that end in Sunday’s post game press conference, the Gophers’ coach replied only with a curt “No.”
Andre Hollins, asked about the uncertainty of next season in light of the rumors about his coach’s job status, the point guard deflected the question.
“I mean, I predict that coach Smith will be back,” he said. “I think so. I’m not really, I guess I’m not caught up into it. I’m just going to work my tail off in the off-season, so we can make it farther in the tournament next year.”
If Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague decides to make a change, it will likely come very soon – like in the next couple of days. The administration has certainly had a full season of ups and downs, dramatic wins and dramatic losses to evaluate. Now, there’s nothing left to play out, just a decision to be made.
Other notes on tonight’s loss:
- Minnesota has not been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1997, a season that has since been vacated. The Gophers’ last official Sweet Sixteen appearance came in 1990.
- Florida shot 65.2 percent from the field in the first half on Sunday, the highest percentage the Gophers have ever allowed in a half. The Gators’ final field goal percentage, 56.8, was also the most allowed this season by the Gophers.
- After the Gophers tied the score at 10 on Austin Hollins’ second 3-pointer of the game, Florida went on a 27-5 run to go up 22 with 5:17 left in the first half. Minnesota started the second with a 13-2 run before being overwhelmed by Florida once more.
- Andre Hollins was on once again, and a big key in bringing the Gophers back within striking distance after halftime. Hollins tied a career high in 3-pointers with six, which was also a Gophers’ record for the NCAA tournament. During the NCAA tournament, the sophomore averaged 26.5 points a game on 55.2 percent shooting (going 16-for-29 from the field).
- Mbakwe on his six-year collegiate career coming to an end: “It’s surreal, it’s still surreal now, knowing that it’s all over with even though it’s been a long career for me. But it went by fast and it still hasn’t really hit me yet that my career at the University of Minnesota is over with … Even when I’m gone, I’m still going to feel like I’m part of the team, I’m going to be that alumni whose screaming at the TV, yelling at the guys … I just feel bad that we weren’t able to go farther and I wish we would have been to more tournaments while I’ve been here. But it is what it is.”
- Williams on playing at the next level: “You never really know. It’s not up to me, it’s up to those guys. I just hope so. I just hope so. I just hope they give me a chance to go out there and show my talent.”
- Fouls were a major problem for the Gophers on Sunday with four of their five starters finishing with four fouls. The foul troubles kept Smith substituting for his strongest players often. Andre Hollins’ fourth foul came after the Gophers had cut the deficit to nine and the point guard was struggling to get around a screen set by Patric Young. After a night of whistles – some of them questionable – Hollins didn’t hide his frustration as he left for the bench. “I was just fighting over the screen,” he said. “[It was a] 6-2 point guard going against a 6-9 center and they called a foul on me. I was doing my job to get around and they just called a foul.”
- After Minnesota had trimmed their deficit to 7, Florida guards Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario hit a pair of 3-pointers to promptly draw out their lead once more. On the second one, Andre Hollins had left Rosario (who hit six treys overall) to double another player, giving his man the open look. Florida had 10 3-pointers over all. “It was real deflating,” Andre Hollins said. “It freezes the momentum, and personally, it was my fault on both of them because I helped when I shouldn’t have off a guy who has already made four threes. That was a mental mistake that I made tonight.”
- Smith stuck with the zone defense for an extended period in the first half, even though the Gators were lighting it up from behind the arc. Asked about his defensive decisions, Smith said nothing the Gophers did had worked. “They were making shots,” he said. “We couldn’t stop anything in the first half. So we tried zone and that didn’t work. So we went man. We had foul trouble. We tried to protect the people because of foul situations.”