Don't let the double-digit win fool you, this game was very much in doubt until the final 8 minutes. With 8:14 remaining South Dakota State took a one point lead but from that point on they were outscored 26-13 as the Gophers finished with a 12 point win. In that final eight minutes the Gophers were led by Colten Iverson who scored 9 points and had an assists to Deveo Joseph's three in that time. Iverson finished with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Devoe Joseph also contributed 15 and Rodney Williams had another solid game with 13 points and 6 rebounds.
But if you ask me this was the ugliest game of the year for our Golden Gophers. This is one of those weird games where watching the game I thought we shot poorly, stunk rebounding and didn't play very good defense. BUT the stats don't exactly support what I felt I was watching. We shot 52.5%, we outrebounded SDSU by 1 and defensively we not only held the Jackrabbits to 40% shooting but we forced 16 turnovers which is unusual for SDSU.
So combining what I saw and looking at the box score here is what went well and what is giving me a reason for concern as we head into the Big Ten season.
GOOD - We typically do a very good job of forcing turnovers, we did that last night. South Dakota State was one of the best teams in the country at taking care of the ball. We forced them into 11 first half tournovers and 16 for the game, they averaged around 9. This is so key for us as it generates a lot of offense for us. One sequence in the first half illustrates perfectly how this is so important for us. With 12:48 in the first half and trailing seven, Al Nolen stole the ball and took off on a fast break where he lead Austin Hollins for a dunk. Two minutes later Chip Armelin stole the ball and took it in for a dunk to cut the lead to 3.
This may have been the difference in the game. Minnesota scored 20 points off turnovers while South Dakota State scored 8 points on Minnesota's 12 turnovers.
BAD - Mbakwe and his foul trouble. This was Trevor's worst game as a Gopher and that was largely due to being handcuffed with fouls all night. 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers is not what we have come to expect from Mbakwe.
GOOD - Blake Hoffarber contributing without scoring. He had just 4 points in the game and was guarded very tightly all night. But Hoffarber still contributed with 6 assists. He just seems to be seeing the floor so well this season and while he's not a point guard he is finding guys when they are in position for an easy basket.
BAD - Our perimeter defense is going to kill us in the Big Ten. It is so easy for opponents to get open looks from three against our perimeter defense. This is an entire team deficiency. When a perimeter player makes a move towards the lane all five Gopher defenders get sucked into the lane, leaving shooters wide open for a quick pass and three. The act of team defense defending the lane is a good thing but when everyone gets up out of their stance and turns their back on their man, it is impossible to close back out to the shooter.
SDSU shot 50% from three in the second half last night and it could have been worse. There were a lot of wide open shots taken. Part of the problem was that our big men were forced to guard more athletic forwards who can shoot. But this was a total team effort that is lacking and when we face Michigan State or Illinois or Ohio State we are going to give up a lot of wide open threes to very good shooters if nothing changes.
MIXED - Al Nolen returned to the lineup and it was probably good for him to get this game under his belt before the Big Ten. At times he played well and other times he contributed very little. 8 points and 5 rebounds are good numbers from Nolen but 1 assist and 2 turnovers is not. He appeared healthy and hopefully he'll give us what we need heading to Madison next week.
BAD - I don't think we did a particular good job defensively and even though we edged SDSU in rebounds I don't think we did a particularly good job on the boards. Remember, they missed 10 more shots than we did. Those 10 shots should have resulted in more defensive rebounds for us but we allowed 16 offensive rebounds. This could have been in part due to Mbakwe only playing 15 minutes but that is not a good excuse.
Watching this game made me more nervous about the Big Ten season. I really like our roster and we are capable of so much more than this, but if we play this way in the Big Ten we'll be lucky to win 7 games. What do you all think, am I overreacting? Did I see a different game than everyone else? I am happy that we are 11-1 and confident that this team can be very successful in the Big Ten, but I need to see more.