No, last night was not the prettiest game. Minnesota didn’t exactly dominate. Lots of mistakes were made. As the open to a season in which fans are pleading for redemption from a disappointing end to last season, the closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Bemidji State may not have been what people wanted to see.
But there is a reason exhibition games don’t count.
Obviously this team showed flaws; teams are supposed to in the first exhibition game of the season. Last night was a chance for the Gophers to figure out what’s wrong -- what things practicing against each other was not showing them.
If these flaws were to continue, that would be a conversation, but for now, there is no need to panic. Bemidji State was simply a vehicle for the necessary tinkering before the real games start.
“We got exactly what we wanted,” coach Tubby Smith said. “We knew Bemidji would come in and do things that we really hadn’t seen, and that’s an important thing.”
Some of the bigger issues the exhibition exposed:
- Defending outside shooting. Bemidji State sunk 10 three-pointers. Smith pointed out that that defending against outside threats is not something his big men have dealt with much in practice – at least not in a realistic way. “If Ralph (Sampson III) is guarding Elliott (Eliason) in practice, Elliott isn’t going to make a shot from out there,” Smith said. “And Ralph’s not going to make many out there either. So they don’t see that too often.”
- Shooting threes. The team went 1-for-7. Smith has talked in great length about the shooting strengths of this squad. He’s been very pleased with practice numbers. Practice isn’t the same as game pressure, but he doesn’t seem concerned – yet.
- Free-throw shooting. Perhaps nerves had something to do with the poor team showing? Ralph Sampson III was 1-for-4. So was Joe Coleman. The team as a whole went 12-for-19. They’re not that bad (63 percent). It will get better.
- Turnovers. With 10 in the first half, it looked like the Gophers needed to spend more time working on ball-handling. Maverick Ahanmisi looked shaky and Coleman was not air-tight, either.
“I think this game was well-needed for us,” Sampson said. “When you come in and play someone else, you get a new experience of what the season is going to be like. And it allows us to test ourselves – it allows us to test our game.
"So now that we have to go and practice – we have to work on our weaknesses and also reinforce our strengths and come together more as a team. This game was a test for us, and I think it’s a good measuring stick.”