The Gophers lost to Illinois at home 62-49. The Gophers fall to 17-10 on the season and 6-8 in Big 10 play. Minnesota came out strong at the beginning of the game. (At least I think they did. Thanks to BTN's ridiculous overflow policy, I watched the end of the OSU-Northwestern blowout instead of the first four minutes of the Gopher game). After jumping out to an early 14-3 lead, the Gophers were beat in all facets of the game. It was Minnesota's worst performance of the year. The four factors are below:
Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here's the TL;DW of the game.
One may look at that Four Factors line and suspect that the Gophers played an excellent basketball team. I want to make it clear that Illinois is not a good team. The Illini are a jump shooting team who cannot make jump shots. They were 1-10 in their last 11 games. On this night they made the Gophers look like Chaminade, and that might be unfair to Chaminade. Illinois took to heart Jane Austen's famous point that shooters in possession of WIDE OPEN LOOKS must make shots at an above average clip. At least I think it was Jane Austen because even famous authors who had died prior to the invention of basketball would have looked down at Minnesota's defensive effort. Before this game, Illinois had not broken 41% in conference play from deep. They went 8-11 from behind the arc. Kendrick Nunn led all scorers with 19 points, double his previous best output of the season.
On offense the Gophers were simply awful. Minnesota was 4-24 from behind the arc. Malik Smith was 0-6. Austin Hollins was 0-4. Dre Hollins was 3-11. Some of those shots were well contested; far too many of them were just plain bad. In fact, that could be said about the offense generally. Despite having a clear talent advantage inside, the Gophers failed to get the ball into the post. Minnesota's spacing was consistently poor. On two plays, a Minnesota player prevented another Minnesota player from scoring by getting in the way.
Lest you think the Gophers avoided making silly mistakes, Minnesota had two inbound violations. In my entire basketball watching existence I have never seen two inbound violations in a game. Neither violation occurred with Illinois having a defender on the inbounder. What's baffling is that during the game the Gophers made some great offensive plays. Joey King had a sequence where he came off a screen, caught the ball on the wing, faked his defender and then made a nice pass to Mo Walker for a layup. The Gophers are a much smarter basketball team than their effort demonstrated.
Never has a coaching interview sponsored by a funeral chapel been more apt.
Minnesota next plays Ohio State on Saturday February 22nd.
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