Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bench Shortens As Tubby Secures #400

First off, congratulations to Orlando "Tubby" Smith for grabbing win number 400 Thursday night in Ann Arbor. It's a great achievement and we can be happy our highly-regarded coach reached that milestone as the floor commander for our maroon and gold rodents. Here's to 100 more. You're supposed to initiate a slow clap at this point in honor of OTS.

On to the game ....

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Minnesota 77, Michigan 65

A new look Minnesota team came out of the locker room in Crisler Arena Thursday night with a different mindset, in the first of a sequence of must-win games for this Gophers team that is still clinging to NCAA Tournament hopes.

The Gophers don't have new uniforms and Ralph Sampson III hasn't arrived a few months early. But the changes Tubby Smith incorporated Thursday night paid dividends, even if they were somewhat overdue. The Minnesota bench was shortened dramatically. And instead of paying lip service to pounding the ball inside, the Gophers actually did it, and did it well.

Dan Coleman--who has taken heat from online pundit types and his own Hall of Fame bound coach--scored with his back to the basket early and often, showing a deft touch under the rim. Coleman wasn't perfect, but it was his best effort if you grade him on his aggression on the offensive end of the floor.

But for those who follow this team religously, the biggest news Thursday wasn't Tubby's milestone win or Coleman's offensive renaisance. The happening that will prompt the most converastion was new fangled six-man rotation.

Five starters: Lawrence McKenzie, Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Tollackson and Coleman.

Reserve: Al Nolen

Kevin Payton didn't play (All this time I thought prayers related to sports teams, real and fantasy, weren't answered).

Blake Hoffarber, who was wowed us with his outside precision while at the same time showing us he has plenty of room to grow, played just two minutes.

Jon Williams played sparingly.

Travis Busch and Jamal Abu-Shamala played six minutes apiece. Busch only played in the second half, and A-S played a few key minutes in the first and garbage time in the second half.

Against a mostly hapless Wolverines team, the Gophers went six deep, and were mostly better off for it. At no time did Tubby go the five-in, five-out route. And while the final score might indicate it was a somewhat close game, it wasn't. The Gophers were in control throughout, and not even at the end of the game did the core group take a rest on the bench.

Aside from Abu-Shamala's six points off the bench, only starters scored. McKenzie led the way with 18, coming in large quantities in the second half when he could seemingly not miss. Coleman finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tollackson scored 14. Westbrook, in perhaps his best offensive game this season, finished with 15.

So, while Tubby Smith might steal headlines with the new notch on his career wins belt, it was the dispersement of minutes that said the most about the journey of the 2007-08 season. This team needed a change. For one night, the change seemed to work. We'll see if it continues to unfold that way moving forward.

Up Next: The Gophers host Bucky this weekend. Uh-oh. I'm feeling that marquee win we've been waiting for!

9 comments:

goofer said...

One of things I've noticed about this years team is that they actually run plays off the inbounds that result in a score. I don't remember that from Monson's teams. Also, you mentioned that they used a six man rotation most of the time tonite. I didn't get a chance to see much of the game but did they not press much? With such a short rotation I can't see them using the press that often then.

Dave said...

A win against Bucky would make this season. Tourney or not.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Gophers came close vs IU and Mich St.

Wisky would be a nice W indeed.

PJS said...

Goofer, my recollection is they didin't press much. The pressure defense was still there, but it seemed to be more of the half-court variety.

snyde043 said...

I'm going to be at the Badger game. Please don't jinx it!

lonebadger said...

Uh-oh. I'm feeling that marquee win we've been waiting for!


That's your rheumatism kicking in PJS.

I don't know if you saw the (redacted) game but don't be impressed by it. (redacted) played(shot) less poorly the IU did.

alex said...

That Michigan trip was well worth the 11 hour bus ride involved in getting there. Our student section, which was working on limited sleep thanks to a 1 AM departure from Williams Arena on late Wednesday night, was louder than the Michigan fans in their own stadium, and we basically took over the arena.

Devoe Joesph was there as well, and came up and visited our student section during halftime. He looks excited for next year, and was thrilled to see what we (the student section) were doing. Seems like a really good guy, I can't wait to see him in Maroon and Gold next year with Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III.

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