I struggled with several different headlines for tonight's monumental win, but nothing seemed to top the one I went with. Here were some other options...
- Gophers Resurrect Season With HUGE Win Over #1 Indiana
- Gophers Rebound In a Big Wan En Route To Upsetting #1 Indiana
- WHERE THE EFF HAS THAT TEAM BEEN?
What a great night for Gopher Basketball fan. When was the last time the Gophers beat a #1 ranked team? Well, 1989 is the answer, a win over the Illini. Tonight the Barn was the atmosphere most of us remember from and the Gophers played a great game on their way to an historic win.
But what was fascinating about this win is that the Gophers overcame several things that have plagued them and held them back for several weeks. The Gopher problems are turnovers, weak bench play, lack of coaching adjustments and incredible trouble executing an offense against a zone. Tonight the Gophers overcame all of these issues and poor shooting from Hollins and Hollins to beat the current best team in the nation. The total effort wasn't lost on Rodney Williams.
"It means a whole lot. Any time you get the No. 1 team in your house, you want to play your best and get the W. We were able to feed off of Trevor’s play early. Andre came on late. Elliott came in and gave us some huge minutes. Everybody, from the bench to the crowd to the coaching staff, everybody was locked in and on the same page. That’s what you need when you’ve got the No. 1 team coming into your house."
Andre Hollins eventually came around and came up huge in the final several minutes and scored 16 big points, but this game belongs to Trevor Mbakwe. The 6th year senior willed his Gophers to the win tonight. He was physical with Cody Zeller to the point where Zeller wanted nothing to do with Mbakwe after the first several minutes. Offensively he was able to make himself available in the paint and he dominated the maroon lane every minute he was on the floor. And when he wasn't, Elliott Eliason had his best game as a Golden Gopher.
Mbakwe lead all scorers with 21 points, led all rebounders with 12 rebounds and he did it while in foul trouble and only playing 25 minutes. Cody Zeller had 9 points in 32 minutes. Tom Crean, who recruited Mbakwe to Marquette out of high school had high praise for Trevor.
"He is a high-level, high-energy tough guy. He plays the game at a high level. Obviously, I am biased, but there is no shame in that. When I signed him at Marquette, I did not feel I would have him more than two years. That is a grown man, who is one of the top rebounders in the country. He was the toughest guy on the court."
Great game by the determined senior. Great team effort by the Gophers. Indiana went on runs of their own, led by 8 with just under 16 minutes left, hit a couple huge threes in the final minutes and was changing defenses to keep the Gophers off balance. But the Gophers maintained their composure, made adjustments of their own and managed to make plays down the stretch and build a lead that was iced by free throws.
All of this begs the question...WHERE HAS THIS TEAM BEEN?
That question is for another day, tonight we celebrate this monumental win. And looking back isn't nearly as important can we maintain this level of play?