Minnesota lost at Michigan 66-56 on Saturday. Minnesota led 15-9 early, but through a combination of hot shooting and good defense the Wolverines pulled back into the lead and never relinquished their advantage. The Gophers are now 18-12 on the season and 7-10 in Big Ten play. With the win, Michigan clinched a share of the Big Ten title.
Minnesota made it close, but was unable to stop Michigan runs at the end of each half. While the loss does not eliminate the Gophers from NCAA Tournament consideration, their upcoming game against Penn State is now a must win. The Four Factors are below.
Michigan won each of the Four Factors last night. The Gophers made a great comeback run at the end of the second half, but were unable to make shots when they needed to. Specifically, Minnesota could not make 3pt shots when they needed to. The Gophers were 5-18 from behind the arc. It is difficult to win in modern college basketball when a team cannot make 3s. On the bright side, the Gophers did have success getting the ball into the paint. They were 17-30 on 2pt FGs.
It is also difficult to win with extended scoring droughts. Minnesota went almost seven minutes without a FG at the end of the first half and had a four minute FG drought at the end of the second half. To a degree, one has to give credit to Michigan's defense. At the same time, these offensive lulls are too common for a team at the end of a season.
Ultimately this game proved that Minnesota has the ability to play with any team in the country and the ability to lose to any team in the country. As Denny Green eloquently stated they are who we thought they were.
Coming on the heels of a career day, Austin Hollins had another fine offensive performance. He finished with 16 points (2-6 from behind the arc), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, a block, and 3 turnovers. Of the threes he attempted, at least two were halfway down the cylinder before bouncing out. Hollins is incredibly important to Minnesota's offense, so it is good to see that he is returning to form at the right time.
I wish Deandre Mathieu would realize that he's actually a good 3pt shooter. Mathieu's stat line was fine (9 points, seven rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals), but he passed up several good looks from 3. On the season he's a 44% 3 point shooter, but only 12% of his shots come from behind the arc. Of those, less than 40% are assisted. Mathieu's ability to get into the lane is a great weapon for the Gophers, and teams have begun sagging into the lane or high trapping to take away that ability. If he could learn to hit 3s regularly he'd be all but unguardable at the college level.
The Gophers next play Penn State for all the Tostitos on March 9th at Williams Arena. If you can go, go and be loud.