Read my full game story on Minnesota’s 62-60 loss to Oklahoma State at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. here.
Three observations before I attempt to go rustle up some late-night grub:
Defense looked better. The last two games, if not the whole year, the Gophers looked like they had never practiced basic defensive principles. And let’s be clear – that’s still a flawed aspect of this Minnesota team. But tonight the effort was markedly better. The players were closing out on shooters, clogging the paint and making it tough inside and hey, talking to each other. Now, Oklahoma State’s offense is far from a good or even apt lately. So take it for what it’s worth. Still, there were fewer cringe-worthy moments on that end, especially in the first half.
It’s going to be a long season offensively. It’s almost strange because Minnesota does have some individual talent and I think the same roster COULD be a lot better offensively. But the Gophers are just not working together to set up plays for each other right now, and they’re not making smart decisions – sometimes passing around the perimeter deep into the shot clock and sometimes chucking up the first (and often bad) chance they get. The Gophers should get better in that regard as the season goes along, but it’s clear it’s not around the corner. If Minnesota isn’t hitting three pointers (and Saturday it was not, to the tune of 4-for-22), it’s struggling.
Is it moral victory time? After Minnesota’s third straight loss, coach Richard Pitino spent the news conference talking about “good looks” and “good effort” and sounded, on the whole, optimistic about what he saw. Sure there were some not-terrible parts, but has the standard sunk that low that the Gophers can’t expect to top beat-up, average Power 6 teams in essentially a home-away-from-home environment? Learning is nice, but the games aren’t getting any easier. Minnesota will need to steal some.