It was a very rough start for the Gophers in their second round NIT match-up with Saint Mary's. The Gophers did not score a point for the first 6:49 and were stuck in a 14-0 hole. But eventually the Gophers mustered enough offense and played one of their better defensive games to earn a 55-63 win over the Gaels and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NIT.
You can see that the Gophers did a nice job of forcing turnovers and limiting the Gael's offense. This was our best defensive effort, against a team not named Penn State, since our win at Northwestern in mid-February. Winning three of the four factors was big and it was our defensive effort that really kept us in the game after such an awful start.
Elliott Eliason was a significant contributor, particularly on the defensive end. Though he did not make a field goal of his own he directly prevented seven Saint Mary's field goals with blocks and grabbed eight rebounds.
This was really a game where the Gophers got contributions from multiple sources at the exact times they needed it. Andre and Austin really struggled in the first half. But Joey King was making shots to keep the Gophers in it offensively. Deandre Mathieu was turning the ball over quite a bit but Maverick Ahanmisi was able to come in and run the offense effectively until Matheiu got under control a little bit. Even Daquein McNeil made the most of his limited minutes by nailing just his fourth three of the year to contribute to the offense.
A nice game where we found a way to be a decent team when things were not going so well for us early.
Going to Need More
This was a nice win over a much better team than High Point. The Gophers overcame 35% FG in the first half but shot 50% in the second to survive. But we are going to need more. More consistent scoring and most importantly we are going to need some contribution from Andre Hollins. The junior started the game 0-6 from the field (all threes) before making his only shot of the game and finishing with just five points.
Andre Hollins has been struggling with his shot over the last couple weeks making just 11 of his last 42 shots over five games. As the competition improves and the lights become brighter we are going to need Dre to start shooting greater than 26%.
As we have learned throughout the season it generally comes down to two things with this team. If we shoot really well and don't turn the ball over, we can beat anybody. If we shoot poorly and give away possessions, we will lose very soon. Tonight we turned it over a bit too much but not as much as Saint Mary's. We shot it OK, particularly in the 2nd half.
Southern Miss went on the road to Missouri and came away with a win so they have earned themselves a trip to Minneapolis on Tuesday.
A trip to Madison Square Garden is on the line. The NIT isn't the same as the NCAA Tournament but the NIT Final Four is exciting for the team and something to strive for.