The Gophers are one of just four Big Ten teams left playing this season. The seniors will be playing their final game at Williams Arena and the team is fighting to stay alive and earn a trip to Madison Square Garden next week.
|Pos.||Minnesota Golden Gophers||Pnt/Gm||Pnt/Gm||Southern Mississippi||Pos.|
|PG||Deandre Mathieu||12.0||10.9|| ||PG|
|G||Andre Hollins||13.8||9.7||Jerrold Brooks||G|
|G||Austin Hollins||11.5||5.8||Matt Bingaya||F|
|F||Joey King||7.0||10.0||Aaron Brown||F|
|F||Elliott Eliason||5.2||10.2||Daveon Boardingham||F|
|Bench||Maurice Walker||7.8||11.2|| Michael Craig ||Bench|
|Bench||Daquein McNeil||1.7||3.8|| Deonte Houston ||Bench|
|Bench||Maverick Ahanmisi||3.0||4.9||Chip Armelin||Bench|
There are some intriguing personnel related stories in tonight's game.
Chip Armelin returns to The Barn for the first time since 2012. I believe his last game at Williams Arena was a 12-point Gopher win over Nebraska where Armelin blew up for 20 points hitting 4 of 6 threes. That was the last time he hit 20 points in a game. In his next seven games (Big Ten Tourney and NIT run to title game) he combined for 11, but we all remember his ability to score in bunches. This guys concerns me a little bit, the last thing we need is for Armelin to set a season high in points and end the Gopher's season.
Deandre Mathieu has an interesting tie to Southern Miss as well. You probably know the story by now how Mathieu was a walk-on at Moorehead State out of high school, he played for them as a true freshman (finishing 9th in minutes) but was unable to earn a scholarship so he left for the JUCO ranks. His coach at Moorehead State is the current head coach at Southern Miss, Donnie Tyndall. He too may have some motivation to play well tonight.
Outside of those personal ties between the teams, what is striking is just how balanced Southern Miss is. Five guys averaging at or very near double-figures means you need to defend everyone. Michael Craig is their leading scorer and rebounder, and he is a beast. Only 6-5 but he is a very strong 230 pounds. He is going to be a match-up problem for the Gophers as we lack a girth and explosiveness along the frontcourt.
Efficiency Stats (national rank in parenthesis if significant)
|Off TO%||18.1%||20.6% (311)|
|Def TO%||18.4%||23.2% (9)|
|Off Reb %||32.0%||38.7% (10)|
|Def Reb %||69.4%||70.5%|
This is where things get very interesting. Southern Miss thrives on creating turnovers and securing offensive rebounds. They do both of these things very well, ranking top 10 nationally in both categories. Where they really struggle is turning the ball over themselves and defending the three. This Golden Eagle club is third in the country in % of total points allowed by the three ball. 35.1% of their opponent's points come from the three, by contrast the Gophers allow 29.1% which is still 89th nationally.
In their 31-point loss to Louisville earlier in the year they gave up 12 made threes and had 22 turnovers. In their conference tournament loss to Louisiana Tech they also gave up 12 made threes and had 21 turnovers. When they beat Missouri on Sunday they only had 11 turnovers and Missouri made just 7 threes. In this small sample-size you can see a little pattern here. Force them to turn the ball over, which they'll do and make threes.
What I'm expecting is that they will press the Gophers and pressure for a turnover. This leads to open threes if the press can be broken.
To be honest I'm not terribly concerned about the press. Certainly the Gophers have had a problem turning the ball over, but that typically comes in the half-court when Mathieu gets a little out of control or we try to make a silly pass that gets tipped or stolen. I could very easily see us breaking the press and getting points from it, especially if we are shooting well.
Keys to a Gopher Win
Shoot the Ball Well - When this team shoots the ball well, we win. It isn't exactly that simple of a formula, turnovers play an important role as well but when we can make shots from the outside it opens up the lane for Mathieu and our big men to have some room to roam. Then everything works well together and the offense really looks good. But it starts with hitting some shots and things seem to start rolling when that happens. The one guy we need to lead us here has been struggling lately. We could really use a big night from Andre Hollins tonight both as a good off-guard ball-handler to aid in breaking the press and as a shooter. Southern Miss gives up a lot of threes, I think we'll have plenty of opportunities and we need to make them.
Box Out - Southern Miss is a very good offensive rebounding team and defensive rebounding has been an issue for the Gophers for much of the season. The Gopher defense has not typically been that impressive this year, but the thing that kills them is when they give up a lot of offensive rebounds. There are going to be possessions where we scream at the TV, "BOX OUT!" Hopefully those moments are few and far between.
Win the Turnover Battle - Both of these teams tend to turn the ball over more than they should. The Gophers need to be less bad than Southern Miss in this regard. As I mentioned, I think we'll actually be OK in this department because I feel like our turnovers are more of the careless nature in the half-court than due to being pressured in the full. But we'll see, this is an athletic club who will pressure us.
This should be a good game and hopefully the Gophers are properly motivated to earn a trip to New York City next week.