One. Can’t Close.
This is obvious but it’s so frustrating. When Coach Pitino calls a set late and the set is executed, the shots didn’t fall in Columbus or here tonight. If the Gophers went to a late ball screen it just didn’t create the needed space for a good look so Minnesota forced some tough shots. And late in the game you can see it on the face of Minnesota players that the confidence sinks when the “here we go again” feeling sets in. Late foul shots were missed by Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry (team shot 19 of 24 though) and a couple turnovers hurt them late badly. Also, losing Reggie Lynch meant that a struggling defender in Jordan Murphy had to stay on the floor.
Two. Can’t Close-Out on the Big Shooters.
You saw early in the game that good close-outs led to turnovers. Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry were both a part of it. Later in the game though Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, both freshman, both hit five threes. Many of those shots were hotly contested and there isn’t much that can be done about that. Others were the result of a Gopher scrambling defense getting beaten by better Maryland passing.
The worst part about the Maryland bigs hitting shots was the way it stretched out Gopher size. Amir Coffey and Eric Curry/Jordan Murphy had to defend a step or two closer to the long shooters which opened up wing space on both sides for Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan to attack. And when there is more space to attack it becomes nearly impossible for the defenders on the screens to get to the space because the quick guards beat them to the space. This is what happened tonight and it led to 28 points for Jackson, 19 for Huerter, and 13 for Trimble who also had nine assists, and six rebounds.
Three. The Murphy/Mason Struggles.
The last two games from Jordan Murphy have been better but not where he needs to be. Scored ten points but his board total (4) is much lower than where it should be plus Jordan had more defensive issues and missed three late game foul shots. He’s been somewhat better the last two games but needs to get back to the mega rebounding, super active off ball scoring four man.
Nate Mason’s shooting struggles were there again. He made 2 of 10 looks for his 14 points and both were treys. The foul shooting is great at 8 for 8 and he never seems to turn the ball over, but Mason was not able to make the pull-up jumper and the attacks that they need him to.
Add in Dupree McBrayer having another bad game and he’s a third struggling guy. He scored five points for the second straight game. There was another couple of attacks that just made you throw your arms in the air.
These are the best two players on the team right now. Akeem is the player that will give his all out effort in defending plus he consistently makes at the arc. Tonight Springs had a season high 23 points on 9 of 15 shooting. He’s their toughest and most confident player at the moment. He heeds to figure out how to get guard mates Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer back on board with him.
Amir Coffey finished with nine assists and 11 points. Amir made three triples although he had trouble finishing around the basket. His passing is purely outstanding though. On the break, attacking and kicking, or reversing the ball Coffey is getting shots for all.
Five. NCAAs? I hope we can just win another game.
Jim Mora is back. Let him loose. The Gophers are 3-6 in Big Ten play and I don’t think 9-9 is something that can be dreamed of any more. The schedule does get simpler but this is a tough league. Most games will be close and if you can’t win close games you pile up the losses. Games with Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Rutgers are winnable and on the horizon so I think dreaming of 5-4 is possible but until this team picks up some late game confidence like they had against good and bad non-conference teams, and against Purdue and Northwestern, even 5-4 won’t happen.
NCAA Tournament? Stop with the NCAA projections. This team just has to win at Illinois.