When a team starts the conference season 3-0, and then promptly goes 0-3, there is usually a lot of overflowing frustration.
When a season starts so promisingly and then drops off so dramatically, it’s because someone is dropping the ball, right?
So who dropped it? What is going wrong? What shall we blame this collapse on?
Here were coach Tubby Smith’s answers last night:
Rodney Williams was absent: The senior, who also had a poor showing against Michigan and simply hasn’t been the same player he was in non-league play, went 3-for-11 from the field and finished with seven points and three rebounds. “We’ve got to get more production out of Rodney Williams, he’s had a tough time of it lately, so we’ve got to figure some things out there,” Smith said.
Andre Hollins was absent: The sophomore has been the Gophers’ leader this year, there’s no question about it. But Wednesday, he was simply a liability, going 2-for-9 and turning the ball over seven times. “He just looked like he panicked, like he was just scared – the fear of whatever it was. That’s what I saw,” Smith said.
Shooting has become a mental thing: In the first half, the Gophers shot an ugly 29 percent from the field, and seemed sure to do a better job in the second half. Not the case. “You go in and you tell guys ‘Hey, we’re going to shoot better in the second half, they’re going to fall.’ And sure enough, they didn’t,” Smith said.
Austin Hollins made a dumb move and fouled out with more than 11 minutes to go: Austin being on the court means so much for the Gophers – his poise, his ball handling and of course, his lock-down D. But Wednesday, it was the opposite of a composed moment that took him out and gave him the spotlight after the game. “We had a guy at the table,” Smith said of Hollins’ fifth foul. “I don’t know what he was doing. He knew he had four fouls, I don’t know why he’d even go near the guy … I put him back in with three fouls, and that’s probably poor judgment on my part. But I thought he was a little more headier than that.”
The 1-3-1 is killing them: The Gophers play against it at least twice a year (most years) and yet they still look completely lost in trying to attack it. Said Smith: “It’s tough to simulate. We only do it when we’re playing against them. We obviously did a poor job of practicing and preparing for it … I just think we’re playing from sideline to sideline instead of attacking the basket and they do a pretty good job – they’re long up there. They have Reggie at point and they’re doing a good job of making us have to pass around and they’re very aggressive on the ball. I think that’s what makes it so effective, they’re really hitting those passing lanes and if you’re not patient or you’re throwing quick shots which we did, or turn it over, which we did, it’s going to lead to easy baskets.”
Turnovers are killing them: It’s an old storyline simply because it hasn’t gone away – turnovers have certainly been a factor in every one of the Gophers’ losses, and when they win it’s been an achievement in spite of them. “They had nine steals against us so, a lot of them were steals where we’d turn it over in transition a couple times, and that’s been a real problem, we’re been unable to handle the ball,” Smith said.
The team’s attitude is not the greatest: This has been a theme of the last two games. On Wednesday, Smith talked a lot about the squad’s affinity for complaining. “It’s just like I said, complaining … It’s easy, when you’re losing, people point the finger, that’s the way it starts. Instead of being it’s my fault, that’s one of the things you have to deal with, you look at the refs, you look at the coach, it’s ‘somebody’s not doing something,’” Smith said. “And that’s what losers do.”
They failed to fight at the basket: This goes along with the previous bullet. The team seemed resigned to the fact that with Northwestern taking away the passing lanes, they simply couldn’t get inside – and so they stopped trying. When they got there, they weren’t aggressive and their body language showed their frustration. “We have a tendency to take ourselves out of the game with our attitude about ‘they’re hitting me’ or ‘I’m being pushed.’ It really is interesting,” Smith said. “We’ve practiced, we’ve tried to simulate, I’ll call fouls, we did a good job of that … We had a lot of chances, right at the basket too, and that’s disappointing. Because we work on finishing at the basket with contact and when it doesn’t carry over to the game, it’s disappointing.”
They failed to make adjustments: One of the things the Gophers had proven as a strength earlier in the season was making halftime adjustments and coming out much stronger in the second. That factor has gone away in the last two games. The Gophers never made any steps toward solving the 1-3-1 last night and appeared to simply have given up at the end. “I’m at a loss to be honest with you, I thought we had corrected some things,” Smith said. “And then we came out against Michigan in the second half and there’s been two second halves where we’ve been terrible, really terrible. And it’s as simple as that. We haven’t made the adjustments, obviously from a coaching standpoint and if we have, it hasn’t carried over to the team.”