One statistic sufficiently sums up why the Gophers defeated Utah Valley 76-51 at The Barn.
Turnovers: UVU- 26, Minnesota-5.
In a game that was probably closer than it should have been--but also never really in doubt--it was the Gophers' defense, that in turn led to offense that made the difference. And, I suspect, when the Gophers are playing their best basketball this season the defense will be leading the way.
Rodney Williams led the way with 17 points, including 13 in the second half in which the Gophers pulled away after leading by 8 at halftime. DJ Swat poured in 15 points on 7-10 shooting and Al Nolen dolled out 7 assists to go with 11 points.
But not everything was pretty. For the third straight game, the Gophers struggled in the first half. In the opening 10 minutes, the Gophers offense settled far too often for outside jump shots early in the shot clock. Off-the-ball movement on offense during this period was suspect and ball movement was relatively non-existent.
But towards the end of the first half Tubby called a time out and clearly sent a message. During the next two possessions the Gophers had a plan on offense--a high-low game with Ralph Sampson III and DJ Swat. And from that point on the Gophers seemed to settle down and began to attack the basket instead of settling for the jumper.
And the team will have to play inside and drive to the basket if tonight's 26 percent shooting from three is a sign of things to come. But, hopefully, it was just one of those nights with the rim. Devoe Joseph was 3-13 and 1-5 from three. Ugh. But, again, the Gophers can survive those types of nights when their high-intensity man defense is creating the types of turnovers it did tonight.
Hats off also to the Wolverines. The game wasn't really out of reach until the final five minutes when the Gophers defense took over for good. The Wolverines fought the entire way.
A few more thoughts below the fold ....
- This was the first game I've been able to see this season and I can see why everyone has been talking about Williams. I believed everyone that his athleticism was the real deal. But I was impressed with his basketball instincts. Rodney followed his shot. He crashed the boards. And he cut to the right spots on the floor to finish after a turnover.
- Like much of the non-conference slate last year, the Gophers pressed most of the game. During the Big Ten conference portion of the season the Gophers played full-court far less often. I'll be very curious to see what Tubby does against Butler. Butler is no regular mid-major and they are a veteran team that will be ready for defensive pressure. Will the press simply be part of Minnesota's DNA this year, meaning that the Gophers are a pressing team the vast majority of the time? I sort of hope so.
- I really liked a lineup tonight that consisted of Nolen, Joseph, WIlliams, Carter and Johnson. They created turnovers and ran the floor very well.
- This was the first game I was able to watch this year, and Miss PJS' first comment was that Colton Iverson is looking much better. Quite the basketball mind I'm living with!
- I'm not sure if I like the new floor.