The Minute After: Minnesota

barnstorm

Thoughts on a 77-73 loss to the Golden Gophers:

Minnesota, fresh off a a visit from a sports psychologist and a players-only meeting over the weekend, had its mind right for No. 1 tonight in The Barn. This would not be the Golden Gophers team that found itself embarrassed after two back-to-back 20-point losses, another Tubby Smith team losing its way again in the dead of the Minnesota winter. No, this would be the team that once found itself in the Top 10 in all of college basketball — one with experience and talent and athleticism. A team that made a furious rally against the Hoosiers on Jan. 12 inside Assembly Hall and nearly pulled out a victory.

Trevor Mbwake would make sure Indiana knew early that this game was going to be a physical war in the paint. He would score 10 of Minnesota’s first 14 points and simply could not miss, would not miss. Six years in the college game, the first under Tom Crean, and it was one of his finest performances. Mbwake would keep the grind and the hustle going all night despite foul trouble, and finished with 21 points (8-of-10 from the field, 5-of-7 from the line), 12 rebounds and a block of Cody Zeller in the first half that said: “Yes, Player of the Year candidate, I came to compete tonight.”

Half of Mbwake’s rebounds were on the offensive end of the court, and this is where Minnesota would beat the Hoosiers possession after possession after possession (after possession after possession). An atrocious Golden Gopher performance beyond the arc (4-of-20) was offset by Minnesota’s beasting on the boards; it snatched an ungodly 53.4 percent of its misses, leading to 23 second-chance points. It led to the Gophers taking 11 more shots than the Hoosiers and helping it score 40 of its 77 points inside the paint. Twenty-three offensive rebounds in total, and it was simply too much for Indiana to overcome. Minnesota out-rebounded the Hoosiers and outscored them on a per-possession basis (1.23 vs. 1.13). This does not happen often.

Indiana has gotten off to strong starts on the backs of Christian Watford and Cody Zeller so often this Big Ten season, but they were but ghosts in the 85-year-old Williams Arena. Mbwake and Rodney Williams put Zeller on his heels in first half with a pair of blocks. Zeller would head to halftime with zero fields goals and two points. He wouldn’t make his first bucket until the 8:40 mark of the second half. He would end the game on the bench, fouled out of the contest. The Washington, Ind. native would make all five of his free throws and snag seven boards, but finished the game just 2-of-9 from the floor.

Watford, the model of scoring consistency over the last few months, only mustered one bucket until the last minute of the game, when he’d net both a trailing and corner 3-pointer for six quick points to give Indiana hope. His streak of 19 straight Big Ten games scoring double-figures ended tonight, though, as he would finish with eight points.

Jordan Hulls was feeling it, the quick release so finely documented by Dan Dakich on the ESPN telecast, dropping trey after trey in the first half. But Hulls’ 5-of-7 performance from beyond the arc for 17 points was punctuated by just a 1-of-3 mark in the second half. His only make after intermission dropped late with a 3-pointer from the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

Tonight’s loss is not of the sky-is-falling variety. ESPN Bracket Lord Joe Lunardi swiftly tweeted when it looked as if the Hoosiers might fall that Indiana would not lose the No. 1 overall seed with a loss. Minnesota is better than it’s been playing of late and clocks in at No. 19 in the nation via Ken Pomeroy. The Hoosiers did not lose poise or wilt under the weight of the crowd; Minnesota simply outworked them. Three losses in the Big Ten season at this juncture still has the Hoosiers on the top of the heap.

But that’s not how it may end. Indiana’s loss tonight could have cost it an outright grasp of the conference title depending on how things shake out. Wins against Ohio State and Michigan State on the road had hopes high, but nothing is ever guaranteed in Big Ten basketball, and there’s still season left to play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonny.mcclain Jonny McClain

    agree. i have never been impressed with our zone. we seem to go to this against teams that struggle shooting (which is why the numbers may suggest we are effective in it) but in my mind the tide is eventually going to turn for a team – they can’t miss every shot – all minnesota needed was one or two and they were off and running. it would be different if we were getting to the shooters but we weren’t and they had so many wide open looks you knew a couple were about to fall. even dakich pointed this out… and which coach also commented recently about how he thought crean was smart to stop switching up defenses and play more man-to-man (northwestrn?).

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    On the bright side: Michigan slipped up again, Wisc will probably lose at MSU for their 5th loss, and hopefully Michigan can come back and beat MSU in a rivalry game to give them their 5th loss, so IU is still in a good position to win the B1G outright if they can hold serve at home.

    Most of us said the B1G could have 5 losses and it’s looking likely that IU could have 4 while everyone else ends up with 5 so we’re still ahead of the pack!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    On the bright side: Michigan slipped up again, Wisc will probably lose at MSU for their 5th loss, and hopefully Michigan can come back and beat MSU in a rivalry game to give them their 5th loss, so IU is still in a good position to win the B1G outright if they can hold serve at home.

    Most of us said the B1G could have 5 losses and it’s looking likely that IU could have 4 while everyone else ends up with 5 so we’re still ahead of the pack!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonny.mcclain Jonny McClain

    saying ‘why didn’t we run something for jordy’ is like a broken record – been reading this same comment for four years.

    yogi needs to be a little more selective with his shots – he should rarely take a 3 with all the shooters we have on the floor (and if a few are struggling – find the guys who aren’t)

    victor also needs to forget the 3 and attack first – always.

    love derek elston – but when we sub out cody at the center position and bring in elston when we are getting outrebounded by 20+… you have to scratch your head a little. i realize crean wants DE down the stretch since he is a senior – also realize HMP is pretty bad but why not give him a shot and see if he can grab a board or two.
    also have an odd thought – not sure if we want this team to be the #1 seed overal heading into the tournament… that will be a LOT of pressure on these kids in the Indy regional. i think if the guys feel ‘snubbed’ – they play better.

  • Snookafly

    Painter for whatever his opinions worth.

  • http://twitter.com/IUMitchell Deon M

    win the national championship and Line 2 could change

  • Mr BF

    You are missing my whole point. In a zone if there is no one in the area you are covering do you stay in that area and guard no one or do you shift the zone to cover everyone? The defense better be moving to defend the offense and even if an area is overloaded by the offense, in theory, there should be enough defenders to block everyone out. It is harder to find someone to blockout if you don’t look. That’s what you should be doing as the shot is being shot, looking for the blockout, which is many times very easy to do in a zone, because those athletic offensive players are running to the basket where else would they be going if they are offensive rebounding and if you block them out first as they are coming toward the basket, who do you think then has the advantage, the defensive rebounder. I know Coach Knight did not play zone, but I don’t think it was because of the blockout, I think it was more so because he wanted his players in the jersey of the offense.

  • mailman42

    Zeller and Oladipo are not ready for the NBA….. Both would be 1st round picks, but their careers would suffer and they can forget about the huge contracts. Tyler Zeller is learning how different the NBA is and hopefully he spreads the word to Cody and Vic… ESPN analysts are hurting college basketball with all their draft projections and preseason picks… If Cody and Vic stayed at IU they could and would be legends forever, and it will only help further their basketball career. Money speaks volumes and they are close to earning their degrees, but both have several aspects of their games that need greatly improved.

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