Read my full game story on Minnesota’s 84-70 loss to South Dakota State, here.
Three observations after the Gophers’ second loss in a row and third loss in five games:
Not pretty. One game after the Gophers coughed up their 47-game winning streak in non-conference home games, Minnesota looked worse. Much worse. Of course, South Dakota State is a lot better than South Dakota (and looks like a sure-fire bet to win the Summit League at this point), but the Gophers just handed the Jackrabbits the game in a matter of minutes. Mistakes compounded on each other, and the Gophers seemed to give up defensively as SDSU sprinted to a 45-22 lead at halftime. Offensively, Minnesota is too one-dimensional to struggle so much defensively. But in the first half, no one could even find the bucket, and the Gophers’ strung together mostly half-hearted possessions with LOTS of low-percentage two-point shots. This was one of the very rare true blowouts I’ve seen Minnesota endure. Although the backcourt woke up some in the second half, there was no comeback.
Youth prevails. Coach Richard Pitino had three freshmen and two sophomores in the game at the end, telling the media that he was playing the guys who he felt were actually competing. While it’s not especially encouraging that the coach felt the upperclassmen weren’t playing as hard, there is something of a silver lining in that the future of Minnesota is gutting it out and taking accountability. Freshman Jordan Murphy led the team in scoring each of the previous two games. Sophomore Nate Mason and freshman Kevin Dorsey were the leaders tonight. The overall cohesiveness of the current team is concerning -- players repeatedly cited the lack of communication, focus and listening to Pitino as what is holding them back – chemistry, is obviously still building. But there is some talent in the future.
Watch out for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys aren’t as good as SDSU, but they’re no worse than Texas Tech and will get Minnesota in a neutral-court environment. Can the Gophers snap back from an ugly stretch to take their biggest win of the year opposite a team that has defensively locked down the paint thus far this season? It could set the tone of the season.