The Gophers last danced four years ago. But this year they will be going to the NCAA Tournament with a chance to seemingly win a couple games based on the way they are playing right now. This Gopher team won their fifth league game on the road for the first time in 20 seasons. They are 21-7 and have a very real shot to post a minimum of 24 wins after the Big Ten Tournament.
It’s been hard luck around here for Minnesota sports therefore it was hard for me to look at any NCAA Tournament projections before today. With nine league wins in the bag it’s time to start dreaming of first round locations and potential opponents.
Minnesota, your Gophers are about to go dancing and it’s with only one senior on the team. Great job Richard Pitino.
Two. Slumps Broken.
The worry after two games struggling from the field was that Akeem Springs may be the next with a slump. Not so fast my friend! In 18 minutes Akeem scored 16 points led by his four three-point makes. Slump over.
More importantly Dupree McBrayer has broken free of his four or five game slump with a team high 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting. This was on the heels of a 15 point performance against Michigan. McBrayer caught fire in the second half with a three and a pull-up jumper and that run gave Minnesota the jump on a late game run.
Jordan Murphy (15 points and 8 rebounds tonight) and Nate Mason (17 points) slumped early in the year but have overcome it, Springs and McBrayer look free of their slumps, and all around this team is playing it’s best basketball of the season.
Three. Six Turnovers,
The Gophers shot 50 percent for the game (32 of 64), 85 percent from the foul line (17 of 20), and made 8 of 22 triples. With 40 points in the paint and 15 points off turnovers the Gophers took advantage of every Maryland mistake on both ends. They also had six turnovers themselves and two of them came on back to back Eric Curry mistakes. Ball control at its finest.
Four. Defensive Adjustments.
There was a time that ball screens were killing Minnesota. The Terrapins picked on Bakary Konate who had trouble releasing off the screen plus Minnesota’s rotations simply couldn’t keep up. So when Reggie Lynch hit foul trouble once again Richard Pitino mixed things up.
The top memories off the Gopher second half defense were Eric Curry moving his feet with Melo Trimble and forcing a turnover, and Amir Coffey (13 points) either getting on the passing lane or catching after a turnover and pushing the ball.
What did Pitino change? He went with less Bakary late in the game when Reggie was out and went with Murphy and Curry. Pitino also switched his defensive calls on ball screens throughout the second half with some guys going under screens, sometimes using switches, other times using hard shows, and he threw in a couple zone possessions out of timeouts to block potential halfcourt man sets from Maryland.
Five. Melo was Mello, 3 Frosh 3s
Minnesota did an okay job on Melo Trimble in the first game limiting him to five scores (but he had 13 points and nine assists). Tonight Trimble was 4 of 12 shooting the ball for 11 points and made just 1 of 6 treys. He was also forced into four turnovers and never got into the flow of the game. Springs defended Trimble early plus the team did a great job on him on ball and off the ball.
Remember last game when Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson hit 10 of 12 three-pointers? Tonight they made 3 of 9 and shot 6 of 20 overall. The Terrapins outplayed the Gophers up front in the first half but the Gophers had the edge in half two.
Extra. I also can’t help but think back to last year when the conversation on GI was so negative about terrible players, bad recruiting, firings of coaches, etc (not sure how may Scout members were talking on that board or not). Patience was needed, growth and talent were coming, but was hard for people and at times it got quite out of hand. Nobody wanted to hear about the talent on this team. Well, enjoy it now Gopher fans, even the ones that hard a time seeing it.