Minnesota heads to Ann Arbor later today -- tomorrow's game vs. Michigan tips at noon CT and will be broadcast on ESPNU and 1500-a.m.
The first time, Joey King adjusted.
He had just successfully shot-faked to create space, but then -- with his man out of the way and no one guarding him -- King hesitated. He looked around, for his teammates. Finally, with his defender recovering, he flung the ball at the hoop for a three-pointer. Swish. Minnesota was tied with Ohio State with 6:18 to go.
But a few minutes later, the same scenario replayed -- this time with the Gophers trailing by one. After shot-faking, King hesitated once more, and this time the ball was slapped out of his hand.
Fortunately for the Gophers, Minnesota got the loose ball back after point guard DeAndre Mathieu battled for it, and Nate Mason got fouled, hitting one of two shots to send the game to overtime. Unfortunately for the Gophers, another (final) play broke in the extra session, giving them the 74-72 loss.
There was a collection of opportunities missed that might have brought Minnesota its first league win. One of those was King's second shot-fake hesitation.
"The fact is I just have to shoot the ball," King said on Thursday. "I've been looking to pass every single time instead of just playing my normal game where I distribute and take shots when I'm open. That's what I'm so used to but the last two games, I've just made some silly mistakes when I've just got to shoot the ball -- it's just obvious. So that's really the only way to answer that."
In the last three games, aggressively attacking on offense has been much more of a problem for the Gophers (0-3 in the Big Ten) than it was in the non-conference schedule. Minnesota shot 52 percent or better from the field in the last six games before the start of Big Ten play. At that point, the Gophers had tallied the most assists of any team nationally, having averaged 22.8 in that last six-game stretch. Since the start of league play, Minnesota is managing 40.4 percent from the field, and has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (34-to-39) in that span.
King attributed the offensive dropoff to players being almost unselfish about their possessions, searching for the "great" shot -- something Minnesota could afford against lesser opponents -- instead of taking what's given to them. The hesitancy has cost the Gophers' passing game and their shooting numbers.
"We've been distributing the ball so well," King said. "And then of course we've hit the Big Ten, the competition has stepped up and I think we're all still looking to make -- if we have a good shot, pass it to make a great shot. In the non-conference, we could make another pass. We've got to start taking some of these good shots now... Once we get the defense to move and we kick, we've just got to start shooting these open shots instead of sort of forcing the issue."