Read my full game story on the 54-48 win at Northwestern here.
No, none of that was pretty.
But the Gophers needed a win -- badly -- and they were able to pull it out.
*The defense looked pretty good. The bigs defended the pick-and-roll action well at the basket, and Austin Hollins and Daquein McNeil combined to lock down Drew Crawford (1-for-15 shooting from the field).
*The Gophers can win on the road! They can win at Northwestern! We weren't sure of either of these things heading into the game, since Minnesota had lost its last five road games and has gone just 1-5 in the conference. Also, the Gophers hadn't won at Northwestern since 2008. And they had just lost to the Wildcats at home. They were proving a few things, here.
*Next stop for Mo Walker: defensive juggernaut. Well, maybe not. But his defensive performance tonight should be very promising for the Gophers, who have watched him transform his offensive game. If the center -- who had three blocks, a career high -- can keep up that effort, it's going to get harder to keep him out of the starting lineup with Elliott Eliason still slumping.
*DeAndre Mathieu. How many times have I said this? He's so fun to watch. He came alive in the second after hitting a huge three-pointer to bring the Gophers within three at the half, and was the spark Minnesota needed. The Wildcats had no answer for the aggressive guard, speeding down the court in transition and charging inside to finish in traffic. Those four turnovers were rough, but overall he played really well.
*Perimeter shooting has returned. In the last two games, the Gophers have made 46.2 and 52.9 percent of their shots from three-point range, respectively. This after converting 21.4 percent, 23.8 percent and 31.2 percent in the previous three games. As Pitino pointed out, Minnesota needs that balance in their offense to keep defenses from sagging on the bigs.
*Whoa, turnovers. Of the 17 turnovers the Gophers had, how many were forced? Only a handful at best, and those were probably in the paint. Many of the slipups were all Gopher, just pure sloppiness and being weak with the basketball. The Wisconsin game was pretty brutal in that respect as well. Not a great trend for a team that has so many other struggles.
*Who's got JerShon Cobb? For most of the game, it seemed like no one did. While the defensive job the Gophers did on Crawford was great, allowing five three-pointers from the redshirt junior looked like it might kill Minnesota anyway. Fortunately for them, Cobb picked up his fourth foul in the second half and played less aggressively -- plus the Gophers were able to adjust somewhat and start trapping the guard.
*Free-throw shooting: What is happening? The Gophers at one point led the league in free throw percentage. They are slowly slipping from that pedestal, currently sitting at No. 2. In both of their games against Northwestern, they've been absolutely brutal from the stripe. Tonight, they managed just 10 of 18 shots, good for 55.6 percent.