Yes, the University of Minnesota has not officially won an NCAA Tournament game since 1990. Unofficially their last win came over UCLA in the 1997 Regional Title game. But tonight wasn't about the past, it was about seeing the Golden Gophers we have rarely seen since early January.
After a week of hearing about Shabazz Muhammad 's scoring abilities, listening to confident quotes from Travis Wear and wondering how Trevor Mbakwe would respond; turns out this game belonged to Andre Hollins. The sophomore guard lit up the arena with 28 points, 23 in the second half. Every time UCLA would make a run and the "here we go again" in the minds and hearts of Gopher fans, Dre was there to answer with a three. His total box score? 28 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and just 1 turnover! Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman were both in double figures along with Dre scoring 16 and 14 respectively.
This wasn't the Gopher team that we have witnessed for much of the past 8-10 weeks. As a team this Gopher offense exploded for 83 points after scoring only 2 points in the first 5:20 of the game. The Gophers had fewer turnovers than UCLA and didn't really do much on the boards to gain a determinable advantage there. Nope, this team was just more potent offensively than the Bruins tonight.
Defensively the Gophers used a 2-3 zone for much of the first half and at times in the second. The strange thing is that the Bruins looked like the Gophers against a zone. Much credit needs to go to Tubby and staff for catching UCLA off guard with the zone and then keeping them off balance by switching defenses throughout the second half.
Up next? Florida.
The Gators struggled for about half of the game with Northwestern State before pulling away. Florida, like the Gophers, struggled mostly on the road down the stretch but they did manage to go on and win the SEC. Three guys who score in the 12 point range and this is a dangerous opponent. They have a couple of scoring guards and a couple of high quality big men, making this a balanced team that has been very good on both ends of the floor. But as we all are aware, if we play well (like we did tonight) we can play with and beat anybody.
Gametime is 5:10 on Sunday. Mark it down.