Much credit goes to the Indiana Hoosiers who played very hard for 40 minutes despite being in the middle of one of the program's most discouraging seasons in decades, maybe ever.
But they eventually were out-classed by a superior group of players Sunday afternoon, as the Golden Gophers grabbed a much needed road win 67-63 in Assembly Hall--the team's first win in Indiana since 2004.
Leading the Gophers in victory, and playing by far his best game as a college player, was Ralph Sampson III. He ended with 13 points, 8 rebonuds, 6 blocks and 2 assists. He changed many other shots and played solid defense on Indiana's Tom Pritchard, arguably the conference's most effective freshman.
Damian Johnson led the Gophers in scoring with 18 in a team-high 36 minutes. He added 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
Aside from Sampson's performance, it wasn't the prettiest of victories. But let's remember that this same Hoosiers team has played others tough at home--taking Michigan to overtime before falling for instance. That said, many of the same nagging issues troubled the Gophers. Outside shooting was porous (25 percent from three). The half-court offense, while somewhat more intent on getting the ball inside, was still relatively stagnant.
Indiana led for much of the first half, but after a four point play from Jamal Abu-Shamala, the Gophers took a 29-27 lead and never trailed again. There was no pulling away from the Hoosiers in the second half, but the Gophers never did surrender the lead. Abu-Shamala, by the way, played well in 22 minutes off the bench.
Here at TDG we said this was a must-win game for the Gophers. Now at 5-3 and situated in the top half of the conference, the Gophers face a very rough stretch ahead. After a very, very good Illinois team comes to The Barn on Thursday, the Gophers will travel to East Lansing and Columbus. It's within reason the Gophers could lose all three of those games. Let's hope this win gets the team back on the right track, with a little confidence heading into a tilt with the Illini.
- Tubby Smith shortened his bench today, but not in the way any of us expected. Devron Bostick played 1 minute. Colton Iverson started the game and played the first 9 minutes. Then not again. Travis Busch played 4 minutes. Paul Carter and Devoe Joseph played 10 and 12 minutes respectively. That left six players playing 22 minutes or more (JAS, Blake Hoffarber, DJ Swat, RSIII, Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook).
- Can Bostick really be this far in the dog house (1 stinking minute?!?!) after those 10 minutes against Northwestern where he had 4 turnovers? I really hope there's something more, because it's possible Bostick had never played against an aggressive 1-3-1.
- Why does Tubby start both Colt 45 and RSIII. It woiuld seem to me that they are both centers. And Paul Carter and DJ Swat are both small forwards or power forwards. Why not start RSIII and DJ and bring in Colt 45 and Carter?
- In Carter's 10 minutes, he had 6 rebounds.
- This game really turned on blocked shots. Minnesota had 8 (6 for RSIII) and Indiana had zero.
- Hoffarber continues to shoot with no confidence. He clanked three free throws off of the iron after getting fould on a three point attempt. His last three point shot wasn't close. They gotta let the kid shoot his way out of this, but also, at some point, if he continues to shoot horribly, he ought not be on the court. Hoffarber also had 3 turnovers to lead the team.
- Nolen's 6 assits were very helpful down the stretch as he drove the lane with authority and found cutting Gophers for easy baskets. After two games where he was turning the ball over more than usual, his 6 assists and one turnover was a welcome return to form.