With respect for the final, winning, score Thursday night – boosted by Trevor Mbakwe’s free throw shooting -- it’s hard to ignore perhaps the most obvious takeaway: the overall sloppiness.
At the final buzzer, the Gophers and Fairfield had combined to collect 43 turnovers – 23 of which were the Gophers – and at times put on a back-and-forth, slipup show so ridiculous it was almost funny enough to make coach Tubby Smith chuckle. But not quite.
“It was a comedy of turnovers for a while,” Smith said. “Forty-three turnovers in a game? This is ugly. It was just a lack of execution, a lack of mental toughness.”
There were steals. There were bad passes. There were traveling calls. There was a head-shaking moment of zero communication, when Maverick Ahanmisi passed the ball to Mbakwe, Mbakwe tried to pass it back and with neither claiming it, both watched it bounce to the floor, only for a Fairfield’s Desmond Wade to scoop it up for a fast-break layup.
“I think we just rushed a little too much,” Austin Hollins said. “We’ve just got to be patient and move the ball around, make a couple extra passes and we’ll be all right.”
The game was enough to get Smith thinking about whether he’d missed anything in prepping his players in the early season.
“You know, there’s always something where you say ‘Should we have done more of this in practice?’ And one of the things we didn’t work on much was a jump stop -- but you’d hope that Division I players would understand the jump stop, balance, under pressure.”
The Gophers have had double-digit turnovers in each of their first three games this season, and they’ve gone up each time.
Thursday, they got away with it, but the players know that carelessness won’t fly once they get into conference games.
“If we want to win in the Big Ten we can’t afford to have that many turnovers, especially at home,” Mbakwe said. “I think we were just kind of in a rush with the pressure and they did a good job with that, but we’ve got to do better. Twenty-three turnovers is just unacceptable.”
You can read my game story from last night here.