Sunday, January 20, 2008

Michigan State at Minnesota Game Thread

For those of you trying to follow this game online, I'll provide updates during timeouts and other random occasions. Feel free to make any observations of your own or pose questions in the comments below.

The Gophers are starting Lawrence McKenzie, Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman, Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson. That's good news already.

First Half:

** 15:44==MInnesota 4, Michigan State 4: Decent start for the Gophers. Spencer Tollackson is asserting himself inside. Raymar Morgan is 0-2 from the field and the free throw line. The Spartans have already turned the ball over at least three times--though they were unforced turnovers. The Gophers are playing a full-court man defense. Johnson started out the game on Morgan. The Gophers have had a couple sloppy possessions and forced shots. Against teams like this, we need to execute on all possessions.

** The Gophers come out of the TV timeout with Blake Hoffarber, Kevin Payton, Jon Williams, Jamal Abu-Shamala and Damian Johnson on the floor. Interesting lineup. Payton is playing point.

** 13:05--Minnesota 8, MSU 4: You know. that little lineup played pretty well together. They got back on defense after scores. They threw themselves on the floor for loose balls. And they moved the ball well. Coleman reentered the game for Johnson at the 13 minute mark for Johnson. Give Jon Williams credit for blocking a shot and creating a couple second chance opportunities for the Gophers.

** 11:42--Minnesota 10, MSU 8: The Spartans are hurting us on the boards. Raymar Morgan got an offensive board and a stick back. On the next possession Drew Naymick outworked Jon Williams and was fouled. Interestingly, Travis Busch has now seen action but Al Nolen is nowhere to be found.

***** Announcers just informed Al Nolen has a thigh problem and might not see action today. That's news to me. Of course our fearless beat reporters didn't inform us of this development. I'm getting to a point where I'm going to take the gloves off with Myron Medcalf and even Marcus Fuller. For the love of Jim Shikenjanski, we live in the viral media era where you can post an important update to your blog FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD--which includes Williams Arena.

** 7:14--Minnesota 19, MSU 18: The Spartans took their first lead of the game for a couple reasons. Kalin Lucas hit a nice outside three. Chris Allen has gotten hot from the outside, and for some reason Tubby responds by going to a 2-3 zone. Also Dan Coleman continues to be mystified when he's trying to take the ball inside. But the Gophers have battled back. Hoffarber followed a bricked Tollackson three (Yes, Tollackson) for a lay-in. Moments later Hoffarber nailed a three in transition.

** 3:55--Minnesota 25, MSU 25: Jon WIlliams is playing his best minutes of the year, offensively and on the boards. He's just been active and is being rewarded with minutes. But overall, the Gophers have gotten away from what they need to do. MSU's outside shots aren't being contested as well as they can be. MSU's second chances still need to be lessened. Dan Coleman still has no clue how to take the ball to the basket. The Gophers have done well to stay in this game, despite playing relatively poorly and with Nolen firmly planted on the bench.

** Tubby is not happy with Tollackson, and free throws have nothing to do with it. Tollackson let Naymic just push him around on a rebound opportunity. Tubby immediately brought Williams back in for Tollackson. And if you're wondering, the Naymick rebound led to an MSU bucket.

** OMG: Lawrence Westbrook is playing point. And it's ugly. Multiple turnovers in the matter of seconds. Ugly, really. When our guards on the floor are Payton and Westbrook, offense isn't going to be pretty.

Halftime--Minnesota 27, MSU 31: The Gophers completely fell apart down the stretch. And that's what is going to happen when you have the under performing Lawrence Westbrook and the tentative Kevin Payton trying to play point guard. If McKenzie can't play 20 minutes of top-notch basketball in the second half, this game is going to get ugly.

Dan Coleman, our supposed offensive answer to Raymar Morgan, is a disappointment thus far as usual. He's 2-7 from the floor and hasn't gone to the line. When he tries to attack the basket, he still finds a way to be passive by fading away.

The Gophers didn't score for the last 5-plus minutes of the first half for a few reasons. We have no floor general getting us good looks. Because of that we're turning the ball over. Secondly, Drew Naymick and Goran Suton are creating second and third chances for the Spartans. After starting out strong, Tollackson has looked tired. He's not boxing out strongly. Williams and Johnson have been our best defensive rebounders today.

I'm not feeling optimistic about this second half. Without Nolen, the Gophers are without their best, and only, point guard.

Overall, the Gophers played sloppy in the first half and don't deserve to be winning at the break.
Second half:

** 18:20--Minnesota 30, MSU 31: Entertainment value here. Spencer gets fouled and goes to the line. He makes the foul shot and the crowd erupts like it hasn't all afternoon. The Gophers have the ball here down one. But the same issues are troubling us. Naymick and Suton have already grabbed offensive reboudns this half. We're just lucky they haven't covereted.

** 15:24--Minnesota 35, MSU 36: The Gophers are hanging around, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing. MSU's second-chance opportunities are bordering on ridiculous. That said, McKenzie stepped up and hit a big three. A sign of how far he's fallen: The Spartans basically let him shoot, dared him. Tollackson's energy seems to be back, but he's just honeslty not in the same class as the taller and more athletic Sparty big men.

** 11:50 Minnesota 42, MSU 45: The Gophers retake the lead momentarilly on two Damian Johnson free throws (this boy knows how to take the ball to the basket, take note Dan Coleman) and on a pull up three from McKenzie. But Neitzel answers right back with a three of his own. And then after a McKenzie miss, Neitzel pushes and misses a short jumper, but Suton has position on Tollackson to tap it in. Same story, different day. Michigan State has 14 second chance points. Minnesota? 4.

Also interesting is that Raymar Morgan has just two points after destroying the Gophers with 31 in East Lansing. But Coleman, who was in foul trouble in the Breslin Center and finished the Big Ten opener with just six points .... has just six this afternoon while staying out of foul trouble.

10:16--Minnesota 47, MSU 50: For some reason, Neitzel is being left wide open in the corner nearest the Spartans bench. And he's hitting. And for whatever reason, Tollackson just tried another three pointer. UUUGH.

7:52--Minnesota 49, MSU 55: Right when the Gophers get a chance to get back in the game, the Spartans have an answer. After a ESPN highlight worthy McKenzie drive to the basket, the Spartans try to push (with a 3 point lead) but Westbrook picks a pass. Westbrook gets slightly out of control pushing the other way and dumps it down low to Williams, who tries a no-look bounce bass in the lane to McKenzie. It was of course picked off and the Spartans run the other way for another Neitzel three pointer. As someone said in the comments section, the Gophers have not been able to put together even an entire half of good basketball this season. The second half against MSU has been no different.

** AGAIN! The Gophers go on a four point run (Westbrook free throws and a fast break 2 from Westbrook) and then they force a tough shot on defense but Morgan grabs the offensive board and fins Lucas for a quick two.

** 5:57--Minnesota 55, MSU 60: The Spartans are running staggered screens for Neitzel, who continues to destroy us. But Neitzel has just taken a breather and the Gophers have moved to a 2-3 zone. The Gophers have also missed their last 3 free throws (two from Tollackson and one by Westbrook).

** 3:58--Minnesota 55, MSU 65: You know your team can't rebound when on a missed free throw, Suton (who was shooting) strolls down the lane, grabs the board, and puts in a layup. What else? Hoffarber can't get a shot off. While the Gophers aren't making free throws, Naymick and Suton are. This game is about over and, to be honest, I'm not sure the Gophers came today ready to play basketball. They might have one last run in them. We'll see. We've scored 6 points in the last five minutes. That's not going to get it done.

Final: Michigan State 78, Minnesota 73.

I'll have more thoughts tomorrow, but just briefly, I'm not sure the Gophers came out with enough intensity to win today. They seemed flat. This showed in Michigan State's ability to dominate on the offensive glass.

I also want to note that Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points--all in the second half. So much for his injury plaguing him. He needs to be an offensive weapon for this team, because it's now completely clear Dan Coleman can't be a go-to player against top-notch competition. More on Coleman tomorrow.

The Gophers were hurt today by the unexplained loss of Al Nolen. But that doesn't excuse the sloppiness. Tollackson hurled up two threes? Are you kidding? Westbrook and Payton running the team together? It became small girls high school basketball ugly. The game wasn't as close as the final score indicates. The Spartans were in control of the temp throughout the game. They got the shots they wanted and when they didn't, Naymick, Suton and Morgan were there to clean things up.

Of the three conference losses (@MSU, IU, MSU), this loss was by far the most disappointing.


PTFG said...

Thanks for the updates. Stayed at home, watching the football game and we don't get BTN on Mediacom here in Hutch.

Following on Live stats

Erik said...

is there a reason Nolen, who had a very underrated performance against Indiana, hasn't seen any minutes in this game?

PJS said...

See above, erik. Trent Tucker reported some mysterious "thigh problem." They miss him incredibly.

PTFG said...

McKenzie - 0 pts. Do you think this injury he's dealing with is worse than reported?

Williams may be playing his best minutes, but he's 2-for-4 on bunnies.

When is the last time the Gophs played a solid 20 minute half? Yes, at times they look very good, but not a full 20, or even 17-18.

PJS said...

You're right about playing a full half, pftg.

As far as McKenzie's injury goes, I know just what has been reported. If his injury isn't that bad, he's been a disappointment. If he's more injured than we've heard...then we have another reason to blast our lacadasical beat reporters.

PTFG said...

On a sidenote, where is your hockey guy? The Gophs take 3 pts from the Dawgs and nothing? I'm a sports reporter, and I'd do a weekend recap and weekend preview if you'd like.

Also, Myron Medcalf is a tool. Roman A rocks the blog off, while Medcal posts 1 or 2 times a week. What a joke. Maybe he should have remained in the city hall beat.

Erik said...

Have we at any time this year used williams, tollackson, and coleman to go "big" this year? Would that be an effective way to keep the Spartans off the o-glass?

PJS said...

To my knowledge, no, we have not Erik. The biggest lineup I recall is Coleman, Tollackson and Johnson.

Pftg, email me RE: hockey coverage.

PTFG said...

Who is allowing Neitzel to shoot from the outside? Or are we in that zone again that allowed the big three the other night?

Maybe Lawrence is listening to me.

Erik said...

i couldn't agree more...if tollackson jacks up another three attempt...UUUUGH

PTFG said...

What is happening! SOmeone guard Drew.!

FromTheStateThatRanOffTubby said...

Sure wish I could have seen this game on TV. Tubby vs. Izzo contests have been epic.

Missing Nolan certainly hurt the Gopher's chances. Hopefully they can bounce back against the Buckeyes...

From the Barn said...

In Fuller's defense, it looked like he was on crutches and sporting a pretty significant knee brace. He may be dealing with his own injury issues.

Myron has been shopping with Ryan Saunders. Takes a lot of balls to break out an over priced lavender shirt if you only write 53 words per week.

TSAX said...

hey from the barn, I watch the wire all the time and I see what you're saying. All those lay offs, in the baltimore sun news paper. I guess I wasn't equating it to my local strib and press...By the way this season has been unbelievable, best so far I think. Wait til Omar gets back! oh man. and McNaulty is going crazy!

GO Gophers, plenty of Big 10 season left, yea we could have won some games but we have plenty more to play and I think Tubby will get them prepared. THey have overachieved as far as I am concerned.

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