After the Gophers completed their 62-59 win over Iowa, coach Tubby Smith lauded the team’s “heart”, “toughness” and “character.”
And certainly, all those traits were there at the end – and were necessary for Minnesota to hold on to a victory that looked evident in the first half (when they took a 12-point lead) and less and less likely as the second half wore on.
But eventually, the Gophers will need more than late magic and last-second shots to truly get their feet back under them and succeed in this tough league. Iowa is not Michigan State (as Minnesota will see next) or Indiana or Michigan or Ohio State, even, and making those kinds of mistakes as they did from late in the first half forward will cost them if they don’t fix them for good.
Against Nebraska, we saw what looked like a lot of improvements in the Gophers’ half-court offense. They had more movement, they screened more, and they were simply more efficient.
Those improvements seemed to disappear somewhat against scrappy Iowa, whose zone kept the Gophers flustered.
“We kind of were stagnant again,” Andre Hollins said. “I think that’s what we need to work on in practice, just trying to get a little more movement. Because we were getting that in the Nebraska game and we need to continue. They go zone and we kind of just spread it out, we just stand there at times, and that’s kind of what shifted in the game. That’s just something we need to work on.”
Because of all of the Gophers’ misses, Iowa was getting out in transition and keeping Minnesota from getting into its press much (the Gophers pressed effectively early, but didn’t do so much in the second half).
Now, that the Gophers got stops on Iowa’s last four possessions was critical (and let Joe Coleman off the hook for his late turnover) and that coach Tubby Smith was able to draw up a winning play at the end, and Austin Hollins, able to convert it, was just as much so. You can’t be too tough on a team after a gritty finish such as that. Even so, it was clear the maroon and gold still have plenty of work to do.
Other notes on today’s victory at the Barn:
- The Gophers’ bench went entirely scoreless for the second game in the Big Ten schedule. Both, Minnesota has managed to win (the reserves also failed to score at Illinois), but they will need more production from that group if they are going to continue their success going forward.
- Elliott Eliason, however, played a big role for the Gophers off the bench, particularly in the first half, getting key rebounds, and blocks and drawing charges. Defensively, he was critical in the Gophers’ early lead.
- Joe Coleman had that one terrible turnover at the end, completely over-throwing Andre Hollins (and four others to go with it), but the sophomore was otherwise pretty clutch on the offensive end in the second half, scoring six of his 12 points in the final eight minutes. He was also important in helping contain Aaron White, who had just four points and two rebounds in the first half (he finished with 10 and five).
- Roy Devyn Marble, who had scored just 28 points in his last three previous games, went scoreless for the Hawkeyes tonight, with three rebounds.
- According to statsheet.com, the Gophers have won 89 percent of the time that Austin Hollins makes at least five field goals.
- Andre Hollins recorded a season high in assists, with eight, and Rodney Williams, a season high in rebounds, with seven.