After a tight first half, Minnesota cruised to a 84-64 win over Western Carolina at the Barn. Five Gophers scored in double figures, led by Carlos Morris and DeAndre Mathieu with 16. The Four Factors are below
According to the post-game comments, Richard Pitino was very displeased at his team's first half performance. As Amelia Rayno reported, “I yelled at them,” Pitino said. “Very, very loudly.”. He had good reason to be bothered. In what's becoming an obnoxious trend, the Gophers slept walked through the first half. Minnesota had just a one point lead at half time and was wholly incapable of keeping Western Carolina off the offensive boards. For the game, the Catamounts rebounded almost one out of every two of their misses. That's simply unacceptable against any opponent. Offensive rebounds extend possessions, so Western Carolina's offensive rating is actually somewhat deceptive. Minnesota played stifling defense before forgetting to rebound the basketball.
In the second half, the Gophers picked up the tempo and continued to make shots. A 63.9% eFG is very good, and showed the balance of this offense. What's somewhat frustrating from a fan perspective is the inconsistency in the half court. Minnesota has possessions with beautiful ball movement, forcing the defense into uncomfortable defensive rotations, and opening up open 3s or driving lanes. The Gophers also have possessions that look like they all got together at the Y for a pickup game. Some of this may have to do with having to implement new line-ups in the wake of Daquein McNeil's suspension, but the inconsistency is something to pay attention to going forward.
DeAndre Mathieu was fantastic in the second half. It's a broken record, but this team need Mathieu to be their best player. Point Guards exhibit an out-sized influence over a team, both practically (they run the offense) and mentally (they are the leader on the court). Mathieu finished with 16 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers.
Carlos Morris had 16 points, 4 assists (!), and 3 steals. He finished 7-9 (1-3 from three) from the field. As he becomes acclimated the the D1 game, Morris has the potential to be a very good defensive player. More importantly, he found open shooters multiple times last night.
I really like the Mason, Mathieu, Hollins line up that Pitino has put out. The trio is playing together about 10% of the time and presents some difficult challenges to defenses.
Kendal Shell played in the first half. #ShellTime came early.
Minnesota plays North Dakota on Monday December 8th at the Barn.