Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gophers Disappear Down The Stretch Against Indiana

The script seemed oddly familiar to those that have played out for the Gophers all season. They played stretches of great basketball, and stretches of mistake-filled basketball. And the Gophers had a chance during the last 5-10 minutes to earn a statement victory, but fell short. Unlike some other close losses, at Indiana Wednesday night the Gophers vanished for the stretch run of the game.

Barring an amazing run in the Big Ten tournament, the loss to Indiana effectively ends any longshot dreams of earning an NCAA Tournament bid.

In Assembly Hall, the Gophers were a two-man show offensively. Lawrence McKenzie continued his hot-shooting ways, scoring 22 points on 6-11 shooting. Dan Coleman, who might have played his best all around game of the season shot with confidence from the outside in scoring 14 points. But Coleman impressed most with his hustle, grabbing eight rebounds and proving to be a factor in the shot blocking department.

But aside from those two seniors, the Gophers had nothing to offer. Blake Hoffarber was ineffective in 12 minutes and went scoreless. Spencer Tollackson was also ineffective in just 11 minutes (there was no foul trouble) and went scoreless. Damian Johnson and Jon Williams were OK off the bench, but Coleman and McKenzie alone couldn't carry the Gophers.

For the Hoosiers, Eric Gordon was mighty impressive. His shot wasn't falling, but he continued to find a way to get himself to the foul line and he did well to penetrate Minnesota's zone and kick to open shooters once the defense collapsed. Gordon scored 20 points, including 12-14 from the line. Impressive.

Gordon's ability to create is the exact piece the Gophers' offense lacks. McKenzie is a streaky shooter who can get red hot. But if McKenzie's shot isn't falling, he can't create for others the way Gordon does.

The Hoosiers won 69-55, but for three-quarters of the game the Gophers were trading blows with the Indiana. But the Gophers lacked the consistency to keep up. Same story, different game.

Other observations:

JAS: The junior walk on turned scholarship player started and played 10 completely awful minutes. He didn't score. He grabbed one rebound. He turned the ball over twice. JAS is a defensive liability and against teams with even a semblance of perimeter athleticism he is completely ineffective on offense. Can anyone make an argument for why he's playing (and starting!!).

Free Throws: Three Gophers ventured to the free throw line Wednesday night. McKenzie was 6-11, Lawrence Westbrook was 4-4 and Jon Williams was 0-2 with an air ball mixed in. I point this out only because it still amazes me at how little our big men get to the foul line. Coleman had a nice game, but he's never been able to be a physical, foul-drawing force on the interior.

Up and Under: I absolutely loved to see Jon Williams execute an old school up and under early in the first half. DJ White (I think it was) joined the IU faithful in calling for travelling. It wasn't. It was Kevin McHale-esque. Beautiful.

Up Next: The Gophers wrap up the regular season with a trip to face the Illini this weekend. A win would bring the Gophers back to .500 for the conference season, and that would be one hell of an improvement over last season. A win would also give the Gophers a chance to claim that 5th seed in the conference tournament.

6 comments:

The Scarlet Gopher said...

PJS:

Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, the Gophers will be the 6th seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Even with a Minnesota win and an OSU loss, OSU wins a potential tiebreaker on the strength of their win over a higher seeded team (Purdue) earlier this week.

The Gophers will be playing Northwestern in the play-in round next Thursday regardless.

A win on Saturday would be nice, though...

PJS said...

Thanks for the correction, Scarlet Gopher ... I was thinking the tiebreakers worked differently.

alex said...

I've been on the "bench Jamal" train for as long as I can remember this season, and it still confuses me as to why he's seeing playing time. Hoffarber has a better shot, a better rebounder, and a better defender than Abu, and there is absolutely no reason Abu should be starting, or even playing, over him.

Friend Of Tubby said...

19-11 with 20 W on Friday...

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