The title says it all. The Gophers had a 10-point lead at the break but were thoroughly dominated in the second half as Ohio State blitzed Minnesota. A 10-point lead through 20 minutes (12-point lead through 21 minutes) ended with an 18-point loss. How did a 28-point swing happen in the span of 20 minutes?
Simple really. The Gopher offense was stagnant with no flow, identity or rhythm, the Gopher defense was dazed and confused while Ohio State utilized their superior athleticism to blow past Minnesota. Austin Hollins was receiving much of Coach Pitino's ire throughout the game. He was replaced about 30 seconds into the 2nd half and then later in the half he got this...
Of course Austin wasn't the problem, at least not the only problem. Malik Smith continued his shooting woes going 0-5 (0-4 from three), Joey King took 11 shots (!) making 4, Eliason and Walker combined for 8 points and 6 rebounds. And really the entire team lost any interest in playing defense in the second half.
A 10-point, half-time lead, on the road against a ranked team. This loss was a missed opportunity after a first half when Ohio State was awful. I'm struggling to find more words to describe my thoughts on this game, but it was just ugly.
There are some recurring themes with this Gopher team, some troubling themes.
- Prolonged stretches in almost every game without scoring. 7 minutes in this game without a FG in the 2nd half that allowed Ohio State to enjoy a 17-0 run.
- Defensive lapses allowing opponents big runs and easy baskets. Too many possessions where the Gophers look around at each other like, "who was supposed to guard that guy?"
Ultimately this team does not appear to be getting any better, they appear to be regressing as we start to get into March. Right now the hurdle they need to over come is as much mental as it is physical.
"I think the hardest challenge for our team is going to be our mental toughness now," a watery-eyed and visibly angry Andre Hollins said. "Physically I think we're fine. I think it's the mental aspect of the game we're going to have to conquer."
Up next, Iowa comes to the Barn. The Gophers will once again only have 3 days to prepare; their 4th game in 12 days. Mental toughness will be tested again.