Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
This little recap will begin with the negative and move to the positive, as best I can.
The Gophers lost by 8 but the game wasn't really that close. Michigan flexed their offensive muscle and kept the Gopher offense off balance with multiple defenses, making it hard for them to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. But the numbers show that offense wasn't the problem.
The Gopher's 75 points was the most scored on Michigan all year. Their 1.139 points per possession was the most scored on the Wolverines all season. We got to the free throw line more frequently (per possession) than anybody else has all year. And we nabbed nearly 47% of our offensive misses, giving us a ton more possessions.
So why did we lose? Turnovers, which negated too many of our extra possessions; missed free throws hurt a little but not as much as it felt; and more than anything else it was our inability to slow down Michigan from scoring. Michigan's 1.26 points per possession was the most we have allowed all year. When Michigan had an opportunity to score or needed a big basket, they got it. Every time. When they got a Gopher turnover and got out on the break, they converted it into points. On the flip side when we got a Michigan turnover, we turned it back over. When we got out on a 3-on-2 break, we would take a contested lay-up that was missed.
It was the Wolverines converting opportunities into points while the Gophers missed too many opportunities. Once again we stormed back and made things interesting. But Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr were just too good and were unwilling to let the Gophers get back into this one. This team is very good, but it is not good enough to dig themselves out of 19-point holes against the best of the best.
The end result was a loss. It was a home loss, which now is going to be blown out of proportion. Even good teams lose at home sometimes to teams that are better than they. It was a missed opportunity but this loss is not the end of the season. The worse thing this loss does is crush anyone who thought we were elite and on the same level as Michigan or Indiana. We are not, never were. We are capable of beating the likes of Michigan or Indiana, but we are not as complete as they are. What we are is possibly the 3rd best team in the Big Ten that has a chance to make a big run in the NCAA Tournament. This is what we were a week ago and it is still what we are. We have 3 losses, all to teams ranked in the top 5! There is nothing wrong with that. We are not a top 5 team, and if you thought we were then it is your own fault for raising your expectations too high, too fast.
Now we move on to the next set of critical games. The Indiana and Michigan losses are behind us and there is still a ton to play for this year. Up next are back-to-back road games at Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Wildcats just took care of Illinois on the road and Wisconsin is riding high from their win over Indiana. Both of these teams are playing with more confidence than they were a week or two ago and these will not be easy tests.
Tough loss last night in a highly anticipated game. Maybe this was good for the fanbase as an expectations realignment game. Maybe the back-to-back losses will refocus the Gophers as they hit the road after getting about a week to think about it. Whatever the result, we are only five games into the Big Ten season and survived what we knew was going to be a tough stretch. The season moves on, there is still a lot to play for. In some respects we played well last night but we missed some opportuni