Today we saw much of what we were expecting out of the new-look Gopher basketball squad. A team that pushes the tempo, forces turnovers, makes open threes and wreaks havoc on the floor forcing the opponent into mistakes. Unfortunately it was the Arkansas Razorbacks who showed us what this brand of basketball should look like.
As I sit here on my computer I feel like I have a devil and and angel on my shoulder. The angel is telling me that everything is going to be OK. Richard Pitino is implementing a new system, it is going to take time for he and his roster to not only adjust to each other but be confident & comfortable in the system. Pitino showed last season that by the end of the year his team will "get it" and will be peaking at the right time of the year. The devil is telling me that there are some troubling signs with this team and we have some legitimate things to be very worried about. Turnovers and rebounding are very big problems right now to go along with a short bench and a a team that tends to foul a lot right now. When you continue to give away extra possessions by turnovers and offensive rebounding, you are going to have to shoot a really high percentage to beat teams. Ultimately today was sloppy by both teams but it was Arkansas who took greater advantage of mistakes and wound up with a big second half and a convincing win.
Gopher Basketball finished the first half on a 9-1 run to lead the Arkansas Razorbacks by five at the break. At that point I said to the guy next to me at the bar that this team is going to score in bunches and give it up in bunches. Unfortunately the Gophers started the second half giving up too much and put themselves in an insurmountable hole. Arkansas opened the 2nd half with a 20-6 run and continued to open up, leading by as many as 17 and cruised to a consolation round win over Minnesota.
Minnesota's 16 turnovers was actually only 1 more than Arkansas' but it never felt like turnovers were all that close. The real difference today ended up being FG% where Arkansas shot over 55% from the field to Minnesota's 45.5%. To be honest I was shocked to look at the box score and see that shots attempted was even, turnovers were basically even and offensive rebounds allowed was even. I question how Hawaiin's keep basketball stats, but I'll accept them as true.
Player of the game for Minnesota easily goes to Austin Hollins who had another solid and complete game. I cannot get over just how smart and savvy he is on the floor. Good at most everything and I don't know that his value can be overstated. 17 points, 6 rebounds, 1 ast and 1 steal for the game while shooting 50% from three and 6/11 overall. I really appreciate the elder Hollins and what he brings every night.
I guess the moral of this game is that we cannot get into sloppy games like this. Considering our lack of athleticism and size in the frountcourt, we need to be the one dictating pace and winning the turnover battle. Sloppy games by both teams do not favor us for now. This team will score in bunches and give up points in bunches, we just have to reduce the latter to a manageable figure.
The season is young and there will be games where things come together and we get a glimpse of what things should look like. Today was hopefully the extreme example of what it looks like when things do NOT go right. Up next is likely DII Chaminade to finish up the tournament and likely get out of Hawaii with a win.