Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gophers Beat Sloppy Hawkeyes

As I settled in for the Iowa-Minnesota games yesterday, I was mistakenly expecting crisp, fundamentally sound basketball from Todd LIckliter's boys. That's why I was surprised by just how sloppy the Hawkeyes were--throwing full court passes that ricocheted off the backboard, for example.

I was expecting the Hawkeyes to milk the clock and be in position to get good looks as the shot clock hit zero. For the most part, they didn't do that.

The Gophers defense can take some credit, but it was Iowa's sloppiness more than anything else that let the Gophers jump out to an early lead in the first half, and hold onto it even as the Minnesota offense cooled down. As has been the case all season for Minnesota, the Gophers had trouble putting an opponent away. Leading the entire first half, and taking a nine point lead into the locker room, the Gophers came out and allowed Iowa to get back in the game. The Hawkeyes starting hitting three pointers and all of a sudden they led by one point with under 10 minutes left.

But Al Nolen and the Gophers responded. Patrick Reusse walks us through the last ten-plus minutes:

And yet, after Iowa's Justin Johnson and Tony Freeman had a brief run of tossing in three-pointers, the Gophers found themselves trailing 42-41 with 11:16 remaining.

"It kind of hit me by surprise," center Spencer Tollackson said. "I didn't really see how they got back in it, the way we had played defense."

Smith's response was to order up more defense on the perimeter. He did this with a lineup over the last 8:45 that consisted of forwards Dan Coleman and Damian Johnson and guards Al Nolen, Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence McKenzie.

All this quickness was too much for Lickliter's slewfoots, and the Gophers' small lineup finished with a 22-8 sprint to victory. The trigger for this burst was Nolen, the freshman guard who had seen reduced playing time since missing the Michigan State loss on Jan. 20 because of a bruised thigh.

Nolen finished the game with 11 points, eight assists, three steals and just two turnovers. Mckenzie and Tollackson joined Nolen to lead the team with 11 points. Damian Johnson also added nine points, seven rebounds and his usual dose of game-changing energy.

For the second game in a row, the Gophers began the game with McKenzie on the bench. McKenzie reportedly didn't start at Northwestern because he had missed a study hall. And the new group of starters--Coleman, Tollackson, Abu-Shamala, Westbrook and Hoffarber--got the Gophers off to a nice start. And it was Hoffarber playing a little point guard, and against the Hawkeyes, he was up to the task. Interesting lineup decision for sure.

UP Next: The win moves the Gophers to 15-7 and 5-5 in confernce play with Illinois coming to Williams Arena on Tuesday


Spivey Jr. said...

PJS, you are killing me with your early-post reference to the long Hawkeye pass off the glass; the passer was Iowa frosh Jeff Peterson, who played for DeMatha Catholic High School and was coached by Mike Jones and my older brother. He had a relatively nice game otherwise: he hit his free throws, he dropped some nice dimes on the floor, and he buried the open three he took, but he is working with a pretty shabby crew. In addition, Al Nolen played hellacious ball-line on him most of the night, so I think he should get a PJS stamp of approval--his backboard-denting effort notwithstanding. (Conflict of interest alert: sitting in players' seats instead of standing in the student section may have impaired my judgment just a touch, but come on....)

BTW, Peterson was headed to Princeton (he had a 3.94 average at one of the most demanding academic schools in the country, and has yet to post a B at Iowa) until he blew up as a senior, and Tubby expressed some interest in him before he left KU. He'd look damn good in maroon and gold playing pure point, but--as you can tell--the hawks need A LOT of help, especially on the interior.

FromTheStateThatRanOffTubby said...

Minnesota is still in the hunt for the Dance. Keep winning the games you're supposed to win, and there are opportunities remaining for a couple of quality wins that can put them over the edge...

alex said...

No comments about BHGP's hilarious win prediction in last weeks Big Ten Bloggers poll? :p

Clem's Nuts said...

Can some one pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase help me understand something? Why oh why does JAS see anytime, much less starting? I have season tickets and have only missed one game this year either home or away (FSU, radio) and he routinely looks slower than everyone else and--this is terrible--not as basketball astute when moving, screening, etc. Frosh Harfarber (as some rube behind me at the Barn calls him) seems to get the college game better than JAS, who is 2 years his senior.

Why is he starting or even seeing minutes?

Spivey Jr. said...

clem's nuts (great handle) is correct, as I have posted before and as PJS has at least tacitly acknowledged. JAS cannot front even the most "slewfooted" opponent, he is constantly lost on both ends, and his sole contribution--COMPLETELY OPEN THREES WITHOUT THE HINT OF A HAND, which he cannot even create on his own & receives as often as not from a set-offense breakdown--can be obtained from Hoffharber, McKenzie, Johnson or even Travis, who is more physical if equally lost. I cannot help but believe that Brandon Smith would've had ALL the minutes in this role, but his head was too deep in his....

PJS said...

Hmm, Alex, I think Bawkeye State does deserve a little friendly reminder. ... Thanks for the idea!

On JAS, he sees minutes because we don't exactly have depth. You guys are right he can't play defense at this level. All he is really is an OK spot up shooter who needs significant time to release his stroke. (That probably sounds questionable). I will give him this: He plays hard, has heart (biggest cheerleader on the bench) and hustles. But he's not B10 talent.

Anonymous said...