Well that was ugly.
Despite a furious comeback at the end of the second half, the Gophers lost in Lincoln 82-78. The Gophers were unable to overcome turnovers, poor free throw shooting, and problematic defense. Malik Smith led all Gopher scorers with 29 points. Nebraska won three of the four factors
Nebraska refused to yield to the law of averages and shot 17% above their season average from 3. Many of these shots were open because of poor switching by the Gophers, but several were well contested. Ever so often in the BIG, a team is going to get hot. Consequently, Minnesota can't come away with empty possessions. In addition to throwing the ball away, Minnesota missed four 1 and 1 front ends, giving away potentially eight points from the line. That's the difference in the game.
Counter to expectation, the Gophers missed Dre Hollins most on defense, especially when it came to calling out rotations. Not only is Hollins the acknowledged leader of the squad, he is at the top of the zone. Several of Nebraska's open 3s came as a result of Gophers simply losing their man because of a lack of familiarity on defense.
DeAndre Mathieu had his worst game as a Gopher. Nebraska consistently trapped him as he went around ball screens and he was unable to adjust. He had 9 turnovers, including 4 in the first ten minutes. Pitino made a coaching adjustment in the second half to run sets that didn't begin with a pick and roll, but Mathieu is simply too fast to be getting trapped. With Dre Hollins sidelined for at least another game teams should continue to trap Mathieu off ball screens. It is incumbent on him and the coaching staff in the next week of practice to adjust to this new wrinkle.
After such a dominant performance on the inside against Wisconsin, the Gophers went away from trying to create offense inside-out. Eliason and Walker were mostly invisible on the offensive side of the floor. As long as Dre Hollins is wearing a boot, the Gophers need to look inside to find secondary scoring.
Malik Smith kept the Gophers in the game in the early going, and finished with 18 points at the half. He finished 9-15 from the field and 8-12 from three. It's highly unlikely that Smith will shoot 75% from deep again this season, but what was promising is that he rarely forced a shot.
Daquien McNeil saw minutes at the PG position. Pitino clearly has confidence in McNeil and his progression from probable last guy off the bench to providing quality depth minutes is impressive.
The Gophers next play February 1st against Northwestern.
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