One. The Record Book.
Where do we begin? The nine game losing streak to Michigan is over. The six straight home losses to Michigan is over. Richard Pitino gets his first win over John Beilein. That ends the Michigan dominance as they have been Minnesota’s biggest individual team problem since Tubby Smith took over the program ten years ago.
Five game Big Ten win streak. This is the first time since they won four in a row in the Big Ten to close out the 2004-05 season and then won their first game in the Big Ten Tournament. If you don’t want to count the BTT win in the streak, that’s fine. Then you have to go back to the Final Four season to find their last five game Big Ten win streak. This is also the earliest they’ve had 20 wins since that Final Four season twenty years ago.
Two. Small was the right call.
Michigan had a stretch at the end of the half and the start of the second half where they scored seven times at the front of the rim in six minutes. All of that was with Reggie Lynch off the floor. My first thought was that Minnesota may need to get Bakary Konate on the floor to protect the rim and when they did that it worked for a short time.
But as the game moved on Michigan’s frontcourt did not have the agile hard working players needed to slow down Eric Curry and Jordan Murphy. Jordan had a late game putback dunk and free throws that put the game away and Curry had a baseline jumper, a spin move score, and some foul shots. Murphy finished with another double-double at 16 points and 15 rebounds while Curry had 12 points making five of six looks.
Richard Pitino kept Reggie Lynch on the bench at the end of the game in favor of Curry and it worked out well. Michigan’s size played a lot on the perimeter and Curry moves much better on the arc than Lynch does. The Gophs gave up some rim protection but Curry’s play more than made up for it.
Three. Back to Back Timeout Calls for Scores.
A huge momentum change during the game was Richard Pitino getting a chance to set up exactly what he wanted offensively on back to back possessions. He took a timeout down 77-73 but a set Pitino called led to a Dupree McBrayer curl off a screen and with actions away from the ball taking the help away, Mason then hit Dupree for a score. 77-75 Michigan up.
The next time down there was a television timeout. Pitino again had a chance to draw something up and he got another wide open shot that went. The game was now tied and the crowd went nuts for their Gophers. This was a key momentum point during the game as Michigan was up four but two Pitino timeout calls led to scores for a tie game.
Four. Free Throws.
Minnesota missed nine of their first thirteen foul shots and the fans booed with every miss. They continued to boo as Minnesota climbed to 12 of 24 free throw shooting. But as the game hit its clutch moments Minnesota was money from the foul line. They ended up hitting 28 of 41 free throws for 68.3 percent which has been their average most of the year. Amir Coffey made all six of his free tosses, Dupre McBrayer made 7 of 8, and after early issues Nate Mason made 6 of 9.
Meanwhile Michigan made just 9 of 18 and was much worse from the foul line.
Five. Overtime experience.
Minnesota does not look like the nervous wreck at the end of the game that they were a month ago. They have now played a small handful of overtime games and have beaten Iowa and Purdue in overtime and improved to 3-2 in Big Ten overtimes this season.
The Gophers also had great balance. We mentioned the 16/15 from Murphy and dozen from Curry but there were five Gophers in double figures. Nate Mason shot 3 of 13 but scored 13 points and had eight assists. Reggie Lynch had 11 points and eight rebounds in only 13 minutes of play. And the free throw shooting of Dupree McBrayer (7 of 8) led him to 15 points ending his slump. Dupree needs to shoot a bit better from the field but this was a big game for him.