One. Akeem Springs is the Difference Maker.
It’s been said many times but Nate Mason said it again tonight in the postgame so everybody would know, the difference in this basketball team is the leadership (on the court and off) and character of Akeem Springs.
Tonight Springs had a bad back so he struggled to complete plays leading to an early seat on the bench with one make. But his senior night celebration was about what he has meant to this basketball team from his first day up until now. Sprins holds guys accountable, keeps them loose, and gets them going when they need to focus.
Richard Pitino said the addition of Springs was one of the biggest additions he’s ever made because he changed the team on a day to day basis.
Two. Senior Day for Darin.
Before the game in his blog and after the game on the microphone in front of this Golden Gopher crowd, Richard Pitino talked about how Darin Haugh was going to quit the team to get a job to pay for college. At that point Pitino decided they needed Haugh around and they gave him a scholarship.
With five minutes on the clock Haugh, and Pitino, heard the cheers of “Darin! Darin! Darin!” by the crowd so with just under four minutes remaining Haugh took off his warm-ups. Darin grabbed a defensive rebound and had a played called for him (a three that missed). After the game Darin thanked the fans and his teammates and you could see the love the players had for the local Eastview walk-on turned scholarship senior.
Minnesota didn’t just beat Nebraska, they entertained the crowd with fun basketball and had fun doing it. There were explosive two hand jams from Jordan Murphy (20 points and 11 rebounds) and Reggie Lynch (11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists) and that nasty one hander that Dupree McBrayer (16 points and 6 assists) completed off a high ball screen.
Three times Amir Coffey (7 points and 4 assists) put Nebraska players on their backside with dribble separation moves that would make every You Tube mix tape out there. And how about that pass from Michael Hurt to Brady Rudrud for a reverse lay-up! From start to finish the ball movement from Minnesota was incredible. The Husker help defenders were never in position to make a play on the final pass because Minnesota spread the floor and moved the ball so well.
Four. All Big Ten Nate Mason.
Right now Big Ten media (myself included) are putting together their final thoughts on All Big Ten, Big Ten Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Freshman of the year. Nate Mason’s latest impression on the voters was one of his best.
Nebraska had no player that keep could Mason in front. His corner turn off dribble separation and off ball screens was nearly impossible for Husker players to contain. Mason used his quick first step to blow into space and Nebraska just wasn’t able to get into position quick enough to slow his attack. Nate made 9 of 13 shots and all six of his foul shots for his 25 points. His attack blowing through the tunnel was there but the jumper was on tonight too which led to such a great shooting night. He also dished out four assists but had an uncharacteristic four turnovers.
Nate Mason is scoring around 16 a game, is second in the league in assists, is the best player on a top four team in the Big Ten, and is looking like a first team All Big Ten defender. He has one more game to impress the voters, Sunday at Wisconsin.
Five. Thank You Dick!
I first met Dick Jankowski in 1993. I was in ninth grade and I came to my first Big Ten basketball game with Sam Jacobson sitting right behind the bench. Dick introduced himself that day and every day after he said the same thing “Hello Ryan, how’s it going” with a warm smile. Regardless if it was at a banquet, high school game, a couple times in the Burnsville mall, when I was in high school at Gopher games, when I was a manager here, and every time after, Dick always had the same warm welcome.
I am not alone. Right now Dick is still shaking hands with fans and workers 90 minutes after the game. All sharing stories. “This Golden. Gopher. Basketball!” is part of the legend of Williams Arena. Tonight Dick said his final words as the public address announcer at Williams Arena and it was both a happy and a sad day. Dick now can move on, but he takes with him a very serious part of Gopher basketball history. And I think every Gopher fan in Minnesota has at one point or another shared his warm greeting. He will be missed.
Thank You Dick!