The Gophers won their two exhibition games by a total of 52 points and showed plenty to be excited about.
But there was one real glitch that came back to haunt this year’s squad from a season ago: turnovers.
Monday against Southwest Baptist, the Gophers turned the ball over at an alarming rate (17 total), and last Thursday against Minnesota State, Mankato (14) wasn’t much better.
The Gophers – who had the worst turnover margin in the league last season – have forced turnovers at a high rate in the first two games (16 and 22 respectively) but haven’t been able to really capitalize due to their own litany of blunders. For a team that averaged the most turnovers (12.7 a game) in the league a year ago, and vowed to work on taking better care of the ball, the numbers are concerning.
So what’s the problem?
Rodney Williams – who has been one of the Gophers most efficient players in the exhibitions – said it’s a matter of patience, or lack thereof.
“We’re rushing a lot of things out there,” he said. “A lot of times we’ll get too deep into the lane and when we should shoot the ball, we try to pass it at the last second, and then nobody’s open. So we turn the ball over. So I just think overall, it’s just us be patient with the ball, not rush things.”
Williams, along with Austin Hollins, has only had one turnover in two games. But everyone else in the starting lineup has had at least three, while the bench has combined for 16. Joe Coleman, who has been the Gophers’ best scorer, leads the team in turnovers too, with six.
“It was a little bit of decision-making, but it was decisions for the right reasons, I was trying to get my teammates involved,” Coleman said of his mistakes.
I like the fact that Coleman and others are trying to create more opportunities, but the Gophers need to be smarter and more intentional about doing so if they don’t want to fall into holes against better teams. While the bench combinations have been shaken up somewhat the starting lineup – right now – is what it was at the end of the season, so working through chemistry is hardly an excuse.
But what will really elevate the issue is if assists fail to rise along side. On Thursday – boosted by a nine-assist night from Austin Hollins -- Minnesota had 23, but Thursday, their total matched their turnovers.