Rand: Gophers tank, but Wolves guard duo dazzles

  • Updated: February 18, 2013 - 7:34 AM

Basketball highs and lows from the weekend.

What a difference a weekend makes.

We woke up Friday morning to a new world order in Gophers men's basketball. Fresh off a seat-of-their-pants overtime victory over the Badgers, Minnesota looked transformed. A video of the team -- including head coach Tubby Smith -- dancing during a postgame celebration went viral. There was a sense that it was the kind of win that had the power to transform a season for the better.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, woke up Friday morning staring at a week off after a disappointing lead-up to the All-Star Game. At one point, they were 16-15 despite a ton of injuries. Poor play and attrition caught up to them, and they went 3-16 after that start and carried a 19-31 mark into the break. If they had any kind of momentum, it was the wrong kind.

So, of course, this happened:

Friday night, in the admittedly defense-optional Rising Stars Challenge, featuring first- and second-year NBA players, Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved dazzled for the Wolves. Shved had 12 points, including a pair of athletic dunks. Rubio had 10 assists, many of them spectacular. The duo teamed to help their squad to a 163-135 victory. That absurd score wasn't the point, though; it was the overall basketball IQ and athleticism shown by the pair that had people talking and Twitter lighting up.

Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal all had kind words for Rubio and Shved. CBS analyst Greg Anthony tweeted that Rubio and Shved looked to him to be among "the best backcourts of the future" and the Timberwolves "look to be in good hands."

The idea of "wait 'til next year" is getting old for Wolves fans. But maybe, just maybe, a fully healthy team led by this backcourt will be on to something good very soon.

And, of course, the basketball team that looked to have all the momentum going for it jumped out to a 21-5 lead on Sunday at Iowa. The Gophers were active down low, getting wide-open three-pointers and clamping down on defense. They looked unstoppable.

Then everything changed. Iowa switched to a zone defense and the Gophers, once again, didn't have an answer. Iowa became the more active offensive team. The Hawkeyes ended up outscoring the Gophers 67-30 after that initial surge in a 72-51 victory.

Suddenly all the questions about the Gophers, who have lost seven of their past 10 games, have returned. And we would imagine that no postgame dancing video will be surfacing Monday morning.


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