Say what you want about the strength of Nebraska – we all know they are one of the two teams that linger in the basement, that are the exception to the depth and parity of the Big Ten.
But this win was huge for the Gophers.
Forget the simple fact that Minnesota simply needed, more than anything, a W in the score column – whether the margin was by 84-65, as it was, or whether it was by two or three.
But the way that the Gophers won also made a difference. Of course their stuff is going to be more productive against a team like Nebraska – one that didn’t challenge them in the paint, was inferior talent-wise and allowed them to get into their press early and often. The energy and the 40-minute intensity, rather, is what I’m talking about.
The Gophers played tonight, like their tails were on fire, which is what fans have been wanting to see for four games now. They came out with intensity; they kept the intensity. They did some things in the half court that were somewhat new and very promising. And most notably, Rodney Williams broke out of his slump in impressive fashion and played more aggressively, I think, than he has all year. If the Gophers can get him to play like that every game, that will spell good things going forward.
Some quick notes on tonight’s win:
- The Gophers got into their press early and used it throughout the game, very effectively. Smith said he’s wanted to press that much but matchups haven’t allowed it.
- I saw a lot more screening/cutting/general motion in the half-court offense tonight than we have seen in some time from this team. Trevor Mbakwe said the team had been trying some new things by way of that in practices and it seemed to really come through, at least in this game. It won’t always be so effective, but I liked the energy – and it was a huge upgrade from the stand-around offense they’ve been exhibiting the last several games.
- Rodney Williams was one point shy of his career-high of 24. He did set a Big Ten high with 23.
- Ray Gallegos was the one-man wonder for Nebraska tonight. The guard simply could not miss, finishing with 30 points, nearly half of the Huskers’ offense.
- For consecutive games, the Gophers have kept turnovers in single digits. Against Wisconsin, they had 9; tonight, a season-low of six (if you’ll remember, Minnesota was turning the ball over in bundles even in the non-conference schedule against very light competition).
- Smith said he plans to start running plays for Williams more often based on tonight’s result. I’d love to see where that goes.
- The Gophers got 20 points off offensive rebounds tonight.
- Mbakwe clarified that the injury to his right wrist is a sprain and a bone bruise. He had it iced again after the game but said it was “fine” and that it’s not impacting his shot.