Hoosier Daddy?

Posted: January 13, 2012 by Kodi in BBall, Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Minnesota Golden Gophers beat the #7 ranked Indiana Hoosiers at home!

This is after they started 0-4 in Big Ten play, the worst record in school history

Things have been difficult without Trevor Mbakwe but Minnesota’s getting by

I haven’t written a Gophers article since giving my disclaimer on the teams struggles and their likely inability to keep their strong season going after a weak non-conference schedule. Minnesota was 12-1 through their first 13 games while their only loss came in the Old Spice Classic when Trevor Mbakwe was injured and lost for the season. The Gophers have struggled to find any offense since losing their black hole in the paint and have had to transition towards Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams as their low post threats. Minnesota had a lot to deal with and they struggled immensely at defending the three point shot, while they were unable to find a reliable deep threat of their own, not to mention their free throw struggles.

The Gophers opened Big Ten play against Illinois and lost 81-72 in double overtime after overcoming a 13 point deficit midway through the second half. They were able to tie the game and keep up the pace through the first overtime but were outscored 11-2 in the final OT. Sampson scored a career high 22 points while G Julian Welch added another 15 but there was no other play in double figures behind them. The team shot 4-14 from three point range and allowed Illinois to make 7 of their 21 deep shots. Minnesota had a very good chance to win this game as Illinois turned the ball over 21 times to the Gophers 14 but the Gophers are no 0-6 in the past 12 years when opening their conference schedule away from Williams Arena.

Minnesota traveled to Michigan to face the #16 Wolverines and Minnesota would lose the game 56-61 after allowing freshman PG Trey Burke to score a season high 27 points. 15 of those points came from the free throw line or behind the arc as Burke was 2-2 from three point land and 9-11 from the line. The Gophers allowed Michigan to make 6 of their 20 three pointers but were outrebounded 34-26 while the Wolverines pulled down 14 offensive boards compared to Minnesota’s 6. The Gophers shot 8-19 in three point attempts but had just two players with 11 points, Welch again and Rodney Williams. Welch was able to make 3-4 shots from deep but the last time an unranked Gophers team beat a ranked team on the road was 1985.

Minnesota had their Big Ten home opener against the underachieving Iowa Hawkeyes and if there was ever a team that the Gophers could beat it would have been this one. The Gophers jumped out to a 32-31 halftime lead their first in a few weeks but late in the second half Minnesota found themselves down 7 with just a minute left. Sampson would miss a second free throw with just 8 second left in the game but he was able to rebound his own missed shot and put it back to cut the lead to 2 points. A missed free throw led to the Gophers last chance but when G Maverick Ahanmisi’s shot bounced off the side of the rim Minnesota had lost its 3rd straight Big Ten game. Iowa was 4-12 from three point land but it was the Gophers dismal effort that is important. Minnesota was 4-23 from three while Welch was 2-9 and G Austin Hollins was 0-5.

It was the Gophers best chance to win but they couldn’t put it together and are now the proud owners of Minnesota’s worst start in conference history. Going back to last season’s great stretch the Gophers have now lost 13 of 14 Big Ten games and it doesn’t look to get any easier with Purdue coming to town. The Boilermakers started hot hitting their first 6 three point shots on the way to taking a 47-32 lead at halftime. The Gophers didn’t give up and outscored Purdue in the 2nd half but they still lost the game 79-66 and ultimately it was a 16-4 run at the end of the first half that sealed their fate. Rodney Williams did have a good game scoring 19 points pulling down 14 rebounds, 5 offensive and had 2 blocks, 3 assists and just a single turnover.

Minnesota was all but dead and it didn’t help that they needed to travel to Indiana to face a team ranked 7th in the country and have already beaten powerhouses like #2 Ohio State and #1 Kentucky at home.  Indiana’s only loss came on the road against the Michigan St. Spartans and when they fell to Tom Izzo’s team 80-65. Indiana may have overlooked the Gophers in preparation for their travels to now #5 ranked Ohio State but Tubby Smith’s team was well prepared and ended up shocking college basketball fans. The Gophers have struggled against the Big Ten thus far but have lost 2 games by a combined 5 points, another loss came in double OT and the Purdue blowout may have been the Gophers shot of reality.

Freshman Joe Coleman had earned a start against the Boilermakers and Austin Hollins was demoted but it may have just been a wake-up call to the young sophomore guard. Hollins stepped back into the starting lineup against the Hoosiers and scored a career high 18 points. Rodney Williams added another 14 points and 6 rebounds bringing his conference averages to 12.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Julian Welch had 10 points of his own along with 5 rebounds but it was two missed free throws late that allowed Indiana to have a chance of hitting a miraculous 3 point shot to tie the game.

Indiana had lead the game just twice and Minnesota led by as many as 11 in the 2nd half and even had an 8 point lead with less than a minute to play. Two last minute three pointers had cut the lead to a single bucket and after a couple of free throws by Joe Coleman Cody Zeller made a great play to the bucket to make the layup, get the foul and then hit the and 1 to cut the game to just a single point. Two free throws by Hollins made that lead 3 for the Gophers with 15 seconds after Christian Watford missed a three pointer Welch was given an opportunity to seal the game. He went on to miss both, this is they guy who hit 25 in a row earlier this season, and with his misses Watford was given a second chance at tying the game but ended up turning the ball over.

Minnesota struggled to guard F Cody Zeller who finished with a game high 23 points but the Hoosiers had 3 other players score in double figures. The problem for the best 3 point shooting team in the country was hitting shots from beyond the arc. Indiana hit 2 three pointers late and missed another two with the game on the line but before that they were 2-14 and were outrebounded by a scrappier Gophers team. Minnesota won the game 77-74 and beat their first top 10 team on the road, legitimately, since 1981. There were some games in the 90’s that were vacated so this one will stay in the books and is Tubby Smith’s 6th victory over a top 10 team and first on the road.

“Tonight, we caught Indiana on a tough shooting night, but we did what we had to do to get the win, so we hopefully can build on this and use this to continue to improve” Head Coach Tubby Smith said after the game., I don’t know if it’s that time of the year when I’m buying on hope and optimistic about change but the Gophers have a stretch in their schedule where they could win a few games. Four of their next six games are against Penn St., Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska all of which are winnable games for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota has to get their shit together and will rely on tremendous guard play and Williams and Sampson III down underneath the basket. I’m not all-in yet, but a couple of victories could make me believe in this Minnesota basketball squad again.

 

 

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