One. Overcoming Obstacles.
Sometimes many smaller obstacles can be a bigger problem than one big one. Minnesota seemed to have many little hurdles coming into this game but they got through all of them.
· They say that beating a team three times in a year is a very tough task and that was proved today when Minnesota got past the memories of the overtime loss and the East Lansing beatdown to win this game.
· Reggie Lynch was awful in the first two games against Michigan State. Today Reggie made 6 of 7 shots for a team high 16 points plus he blocked five shots. He was able to play with Nick Ward shot for shot and that was crucial. Not to mention Reggie nearly had his tooth knocked out by Ward.
· The Gophers have never been in this situation before. They were facing a Tom Izzo team in a big 4/5 game in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament and they handled it just fine.
· Minnesota’s second half was awful in Madison. It was selfish team basketball. This team looked nothing like the team that competed on Sunday.
Minnesota won this game with Defense. Jordan Murphy battled to spots on the floor to get deflections, a steal, and nine defensive boards. Jordan is greatly improved as a team defender and that came with effort and understanding.
Another improved team defender is Amir Coffey. His fight to get through screens to position was very good today as well. Reggie Lynch blocked the five shots and forced the Spartans to attempt away from the paint. Thirty of their 58 attempts came at the arc and they made just six. Michigan State made less than a third of their attempts overall for the game.
It was an offensive struggle for Minnesota so battling for this win was about fighting defensively.
Three. Just Enough.
Minnesota shot just 21 of 51 but they had four guys in double figures and played with the type of balance needed to get the win.
Akeem Springs hit the three just before the first half buzzer. Nate Mason made free throws down the stretch. Jordan Murphy went baseline for a key late dunk. Amir Coffey was 7 of 8 at the foul line and he had a highlight dunk. Dupree McBrayer made two big second half threes. And Reggie Lynch was outstanding in the post with his pick and roll finishes as well as a huge spin middle into a finish.
It wasn’t pretty but it was just enough.
Four. Akeem Springs.
Akeem Springs went down late in the game and it definitely looked like he injured his Achilles. Akeem came back but was on crutches and I can’t imagine that he will play tomorrow. Springs was already dealing with a back injury and now he can’t put any pressure on one foot.
What happens in his spot? Akeem played 28 minutes. What you would expect is that Dupree McBrayer moves from his 26 minutes likely to about 32 minutes starting at shooting guard. When Nate Mason sits, Dupree plays the one and I would assume that Amir Coffey plays nearly the entire game at either wing spot.
Today Michael Hurt played two minutes. He and/or Ahmad Gilbert will be needed for more than two or four minutes. If the team needs another guard other than Mason, McBrayer, and Coffey, Stephon Sharp has shown that he can be depended on for some minutes in the past (last year).
The thing that they will miss is Akeem’s leadership. It will be there in the locker room and on the bench still which is good, but it won’t be on the floor. He’s been the best Gopher three-pointer shooter as well.
Minnesota needed overtime to defeat Michigan the last time they played (83-78). The game was February 19th and Minnesota got 16 points and 15 boards from Murphy. Eric Curry had a dozen second half points getting time for Lynch (who had 11 and 8) who was in foul trouble.
Michigan had a late game surge completed by a DJ Wilson three that put the game into overtime. Derrick Walton Jr scored ten of his 16 late in the second half.
Michigan is the story of the week with their plane accident delaying their arrival in Washington DC. That’s didn’t stop the Wolverines from beating Illinois by twenty and then taking out Purdue in overtime today. This improved their record to 22-11 on the year.