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Postgame: Gophers squander golden opportunity

  • Blog Post by: Amelia Rayno
  • January 2, 2014 - 10:19 PM

If you can handle more, read my story on tonight's 63-60 loss to Michigan here.

This is not the game the Gophers wanted to start the Big Ten.

As much a team never roots for opponent injuries, Minnesota was handed an opportunity.

With Mitch McGary already on the bench, out indefinitely due to impending back surgery, the Wolverines suffered further handicapping when Glenn Robinson III injured his left ankle early in the second half, and left for the game.

From there, a Gophers win seemed written in the stars. Minnesota was killing Michigan on the boards (they finished 38-24), Elliott Eliason was admirably taking advantage of the situation and Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, well, they were due to get hot, right?

Instead, it went like this: Eliason picked up his fourth foul and missed big minutes down the stretch, Hollins and Hollins never got hot and, well, the rebounding advantage simply didn't matter.

Zak Irvin (5 three-pointers), Nik Stauskas (14 points, 7 assists) and Jon Horford (14 points, 9 rebounds) stepped up in place of the missing big men and abused Minnesota down the stretch.

Opportunity = squandered.

As Andre Hollins succinctly put it: "They hit big shots and made big plays and we turned the ball over" (15 times, including four hiccups in the final five minutes).

After the game, coach Richard Pitino pointed out that building a program is a marathon, not a sprint, something Thursday night's game highlighted. Yes, the Gophers showed some promise in the non-conference schedule and won 11 games. But the opener served as a reminder that the Big Ten is a different animal, and Minnesota has plenty to improve if they are going to be a factor, starting with consistency, defense and a killer instinct.

If the Gophers can't win a game in which an unranked opponent is playing at about 70 percent (which might be generous), who in the conference can they beat? It was the first glimpse of what could be a long road.

No matter who the Gophers play, getting big offensive performances from Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins is a must, and Minnesota won't go far if they don't. On Thursday, the pair did some other good things (Andre had five rebounds and three assists to one turnover, and Austin had four steals and four assists), but they didn't put the ball in the basket, combining to go 4-for-19 from the field. Those shortcomings put to waste a golden opportunity.

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