Sunday, December 23, 2007

Minnesota 68, Santa Clara 50

The Gophers men's basketball team moved to 8-1 Saturday night with a rather ho-hum victory over the Santa Clara Broncos. The Gophers weren't crisp on the offensive end--shooting just 40 percent--but stymied the Broncos' offense by forcing 26 turnovers. The Gophers turned that defense into easy offense to take a 68-50 win at Williams Arena.

The win wraps up the Gophers' home non-conference schedule.

As has been the case all season, there were plusses and minuses to the Gophers' performance. Here's my take. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

** Yo, Spencer! Let's not go getting technicals. Tubby Smith was clearly not too happy with this development. Keep your cool, Spencer. There is no reason to get into a physical confrontation with an opponent, who in this case was a former AAU teammae of yours in Mitch Henke.

** Sticking with our big man from Chaska. ... Spencer Tollackson was 3-for-10 from the field, with most of those attempts coming from under the basket. In his defense, Tollackson did have Santa Clara big man John Bryant making his life somewhat difficult. But as someone pointed out in the comments below, Bryant proved to be rather oaf-like. While Spencer isn't quick either, he surely has a step on Bryant. It looked like Spencer was forcing his offense, perhaps with thinking he would get Bryant in foul trouble. Spencer has to be a reliable finisher in the post for the Gophers to have success during the conference season. That means scoring against oaf-like big men and skinny, athletic types.

** For the second straight game, the Gophers were outrebounded. This time, Santa Clara won the battle on the boards 34-27. These numbers are somewhat misleading because the Gophers shot the ball 59 times compared to the Broncos who shot the ball 38 times. That said, the Gophers still allowed eight offensive rebounds and didn't exert themselves on the glass. There is no reason, for instance, that the Gophers' two leading rebounders should be Jamal Abu-Shamala and Lawrence Westbrook (both had four).

** Not only did Santa Clara turn the ball over a considerable amount, but the Gophers racked up 18 steals, with six belonging to Dan Coleman. While the Gophers struggled somewhat on the boards and on offense, the defense was bothering the Broncos. The full-court pressure paid dividends and by and large the Gophers were active on defense, getting their hands in passing lanes and playing aggressive help-side defense.

** On a night when offense wasn't coming easy, Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie led the way with 20 and 11 points respectively. For all of the criticism Coleman took early in the season, he has emerged the last few games as the best all-around player on the team.

** Don't worry about your offense, Blake Hoffarber. Shooters have off nights all the time. Keep shooting. Hoffarber had zero points Saturday.

** Work on your defense, Blake Hoffarber. At least twice Saturday night you were caught out of position when you were screened on the perimiter. You have to fight your way through those screens.

** Tubby Smith used his 10 man rotation again. Kevin Payton played the least amount of minutes (11). Of the second five, Al Nolen and Damian Johnson played the most minutes (19). I envision Tubby sticking with this starting five: McKenzie, Westbrook, Abu-Shamala, Coleman and Tollackson. I would love to see Johnson replace Abu-Shamala in this lineup, but I don't see it happening. I actually think it's wise to have Johnson and Hoffarber come off the bench. Johnson provides defensive intensity and Hoffarber provides an offensive spark. The starting five isn't necessarilly our best five, but I think it's the best option for a starting group.

** I felt Damian Johnson was more content than he had previously been in settling for the jump shot. Through the first eight games, Johnson had excelled at taking the ball to the basket. Keep being aggressive, Damian.

Up Next: The Gophers travel to Las Vegas on Friday for a three-day round robin tournament. They begin with a game against Nicholls State. On Saturday, the Gophers will face Kennesaw State, before winding down the non-conference slate with an interesting matchup against UNLV.


lurker said...

What pisses me off is I can't even watch these games. Big Ten Network. ESPNU. Almost makes me miss the days of Mix Max and MSC or whatever it was.

Fromthebarn said...

I'm pretty sure Spence got the T for running his mouth. It came well after the shove. Regardless, like the entire game, it was very very strange.

FromTheStateThatRanOffTubby said...

"I envision Tubby sticking with this starting five: McKenzie, Westbrook, Abu-Shamala, Coleman and Tollackson."

This is likely. Tubby loves to have options off the bench that change the complexion of the team offensively and defensively on the court. It's not the best players who will necessarily start; it's the most trusted players.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Tubby and The U are doing well.

Ex-Tubby U (K) is not doing well.

PJS said...

FOT, you are enjoying the early season travails of UK, aren't you?!? :-)

Friend Of Tubby said...

As a matter of fact, NO. I'm a UK fan. I hope they win 20 or 25 games.

But I do enjoy seeing the UK Dip Squats (other fans) squirming.