Friday, December 28, 2007

A Meaningful Win, If Not A Resume Booster

You can't tell me the victory over Nicholls State doesn't mean something.

Last season--an awful, forgettable one in the history of Minnesota basketball--ended with nine straight losses. Last season began with an exhibition loss to Winona State and losses to other basketball stalwarts like Marist, Montana and Arkansas-Little Rock. The 2006-07 Gophers finished with a 9-22 mark, a blemish on Minnesota basketball almost as embarrassing as the academic fraud scandal that brought us the era of head-scratching basketball that is now hopefully over.

The 2007-08 Gophers handled the Nicholls State Colonels Friday night from the opening tip, and won the first game of the Duel in the Desert 77-31 . The win improves the Gophers' mark to 9-1, matching the win total of a season ago. Sure, the Gophers haven't beaten anyone worth talking about. But last year the Gophers lost to low-majors in embarrassing numbers. These Gophers are at least taking baby steps.

In throttling Nicholls State, the Gophers shot an impressive 60 percent in the first half and held the Colonels to 20 percent from the field to go into the locker room with a 41-15 lead. The domination continued in the second half, during which even Travis Busch got into the action. For the game, the Gophers held the Colonels to 22 percent from the field. On it's face, we might look at these numbers and say, 'well, it's Nicholls State after all.' But consider that just a week or so ago, the Colonels gave the #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels all they could handle in a 88-78 loss in Chapel Hill. Nicholls State shot 47 percent against the Tar Heels.

Clearly, the Gophers did not look past Nicholls State.

The video was so bad that I'm not going to go into terrible detail in analyzing this win. But there were a handful of things to note.

*** Dan Coleman continued to be Minnesota's best offensive player. He scored inside and out en route to a team-leading 14 points on 7-f0r-11 shooting. Coleman also led the team with six rebounds. Lawrence McKenzie, in his role as point guard, added 13 points on 4-for-5 from the floor, incluing 3-for-4 from three point land. Blake Hoffarber got back on track offensively after struggling in the win against Santa Clara. Al Nolen was rejected by the rim during a second-half dunk attempt. Spencer Tollackson seemed somewhat out of sorts. During the second half, when the second team was garnering significant minutes, Tollackson remained on the floor. He finished with just six points and five reboudns. Kevin Payton was OK, but he apparently doesn't know what a jump stop is and was beaten horribly on a back door play. I'm in such a good mood after the Gophers grabbed their 9th win of the year I'm not going to pick on Payton further. Of some concern still is team rebounding. I didn't see much of this, but Damian Johnson finished the night with fivc turnovers. That might be the first time all season he's stood out on the boxscore in a negative way. As a team, the Gophers had 15 assists to 20 turnovers. That's not good. Thankfully, the Gophers forced 30 turnovers to dampen the impact of our sloppy ball handling.

The Gophers won the rebounding war Friday night 39-26. This has been a weakness for the Gophers, but I'm not going to put too much stock into these numbers. On numerous occasions it appeared that Coleman and others simply reached over the Colonels for rebounds. On Sunday, UNLV, a good rebounding team, will provide a nice test in this department.

UP Next: The Gophers Kennesaw State Saturday night at 7 p.m. central time in the second game of the Duel in the Desert.

Updated 12:30 a.m. central time Saturday with more statistics.


alex said...

I'm glad the Gophers didn't underestimate this game. Memories of last years Old Spice Classic were stuck in my head about this current road trip, so its great seeing the team actually look prepared and ready for one of these round robin mini-tournaments.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Nice to see Travis Busch back in action tonight!

From The Barn said...

You must have a very liberal definition of "all they could handle".

It sure is nice though not to have to worry about cupcakes.

From The Barn said...
Tollackson with 5 boards. 5 also for MacKenzie and 6 for Coleman.

PJS said...

I imagine Roy Williams would say the Tar Heels were given a pretty good game by the Colonels. In fact, Williams said afterwords that during the following day's practice he was going to see how many players he could get to throw up. That sounds like he was embarrassed.

Thanks for the links, guys. I had to publish this quickly as the lady was saying something about spending all night watching an audio-less basketball game on my computer and ignoring her. Whatever.

From The Barn said...

Most coaches don't try to make their guys throw up unless they played a horrible game.