Three observations after the Gophers finally snapped their 14-game losing streak:
You've got to feel good for 'em. No one with a soul enjoys watching a team go on a long, seemingly bottomless skid, and the one Minnesota endured was a doozie. The victory tonight doesn't change anything about the way this season has gone or, necessarily, the way it will go down the stretch. But for at least one game, the Gophers should be able to feel good about themselves and relish in a win. Minnesota has lost 18 games by one or two possessions in the last two years. That's a lot of heartache. Tonight, Minnesota broke through and the relief/ redemption/ sheer jubilation was evident on the faces of the players, many of whom we saw smile for the first time in a long while. I got to write about something other than the team deepening its historically bad start to league play. The fans got to rush the court (bonus: I didn't get trampled this time). Minnesota players get to break their curfew tonight. And they should enjoy it.
Went up flashy, won it ugly. The Gophers were dropping threes like coins at a slot machine in the first half, and that hot shooting was almost entirely the story in a 40-29 lead over Maryland at the break. It was never going to keep up. In fact, it was kind of weird at the time. That's just not the Gophers game. But the blazing start did provide a foundation of confidence heading into halftime, plus a sizeable lead. The Gophers, when the shots stopped falling -- Minnesota hit 7 of its first 10 but missed 15 of its last 16 -- had some room to work with. They needed every bit of it because things got ugly for a stretch. The Gophers were missing everything. But even after the Terrapins came back to take the lead, the Gophers made the plays they needed to make to stay in control. That's a black-and-white change from what we've seen in the past. Under pressure, Minnesota hit its free throws, got stops, got rebounds. And that's what netted the win.
Nate Mason moments. The sophomore point guard has talked longingly about wanting to be the guy in the big situation ...and push the team to the win. He's been there in so many games this year and come up short for reasons that aren't all his own. Tonight, he wasn't the only one, but he definitely played a big role. His three-pointer just over four minutes left help stymy the Terrapins momentum, and he knew it, whipping around with a big fist pump as he ran back on defense. And his free throws with 20 seconds left were what all but sealed it for Minnesota. Luckily for him, after a bad turnover with 27 seconds left, freshman Dupree McBrayer picked him up with a big steal, setting up the win and his chance to play hero.