Read my full game on Minnesota's 72-68 loss at Purdue here.
Three quick thoughts before I head back to Indianapolis:
Same old? Minnesota certainly hopes the new year brings some new trends, or at least the disappearance of the old ones. You probably don't want the numbers, but here they are anyway -- the Gophers have blown eight double-digit leads this season, three of which have come since November. And after managing just a pair of road wins the last time through the conference slate, the Gophers started the new one with another loss and one -- considering the opponent and considering the situation -- that can be considered a bad loss. Minnesota has shown stretches where it looks significantly better than last season, but if the Gophers can't find ways to win games like these, it doesn't spell much of a change. There is still plenty of time of course and one season-opener loss doesn't mean anything about the rest of the year, but after starting off this way, Minnesota will need to avoid the temptation to fall into that mental "here we go again" rut.
Things are harder in the Big Ten. Anyone who has sat through a season of Big Ten basketball probably assumed Minnesota's lofty steal and assist numbers would shrink at least somewhat in conference play, but today only showed that the Gophers will have to work MUCH harder for those assets to even be strengths. Minnesota had six steals overall, and scored 16 points off of turnovers but it was still a far cry from what the team had been doing in the non-conference schedule and broke the streak of seven games posting double-digit swipes. The pressure defense, keeping Purdue off-balance in the first half, grew lax in the second and Minnesota couldn't get stops when it needed them down the stretch. And the Gophers' assist-to-turnover ratio -- one of the best nationally in the non-league games -- was barely positive on Wednesday, with the Gophers posting just 15 assists to 13 turnovers.
Toughness needs to improve. Up against the Boilermakers' size and physicality, Minnesota struggled to get anything going inside and scored just 18 points in the paint -- where the Gophers have thrived in the non-conference schedule -- compared to Purdue's 32. Not every team will be as physical as Purdue, but nothing will come easy for Minnesota's big men or for the guards getting it in to the Big Ten with many teams in this league.