Most of us saw that one coming. A three point lead with just over 3 minutes to go wasn't enough. Michigan outscored Minnesota 11-1 down the stretch and came away with a 70-63 Wolverine win. This was a second consecutive game where the Gophers stole a loss from the jaws of victory. Back to back home games, leading down the stretch and severely outscored to secure the loss is a surefire way to destroy your chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
Does this game officially do them in? Not really, but that isn't the point. Coming into the game they were considered "in" by most accounts, so clearly losing this home game puts them "out". Winning their two remaining games would probably put them back "in". But again that's not the point. The point is there is absolutely no reason to believe this team has the fortitude to win one of those remaining games, much less winning them both.
We have two bright spots on this team. Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe. The rest have their moments of contribution which is overshadowed by long stretches of contributing very little to the team's chances of success.
Hoffarber is playing out of position which the BTN announcers accurately pointed out hurts us at two positions. We get less out of our point guard than we should and we certainly get less out of our shooting guard with Hoffarber running the point. He does a tremendous job trying to fulfill both duties but it would be nice if he only had to do what he does best. Today he scored 18, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 6 assists.
Trevor Mbakwe could not be guarded by any two Michigan players. It was laughable when the 6-4 Novak was defending him. That lasted until Mbakwe posterized him with an aggressive dunk in the second half. Trevor barely missed another double-double but finished with 18 and 9.
Austin Hollins also had a solid game. The freshman played 29 minutes off the bench, played pretty good defense and had a respectable stat line with 4 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
But that wasn't nearly enough. The backcourt duo of Tim Hardaway Jr in the first half and Darius Morris in the second half was greater than the sum of the Gopher parts. Hardaway was on fire from behind the arc in the first half and finished with 22. Darius Morris led the Michigan second half adjustment of penetrating to the lane rather than chucking up threes. Morris ended up with 17 and was unstoppable in the second half.
This team just isn't talented enough without Al Nolen giving us three reliable options. Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III are talented but they are not consistent, reliable or mentally tough enough to be that third or fourth option on a good team. Austin Hollins has his moments as well but the freshman is a solid player who just doesn't have the scoring/shooting ability to be a real factor.
Are we good enough to win games like this? Yes. But they are not good enough to lock down games against teams like Michigan. This is a game where if we could replay the last three minutes we would win it maybe 50 or 60 percent of the time. That equates to being a solidly mediocre team in the Big Ten. It is sad to see this season tank they way it has.
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