Minnesota lost to Michigan State 69-61 at the Barn yesterday. With the loss, the Gophers drop to 0-2 in conference. Michigan State returns to .500 in conference with the win. Nate Mason led all Minnesota scorers with 16 points.
In the first half, Minnesota made up for its lack of shooting ability by playing tough defense and giving the ball to Jordan Murphy. The freshman had 10 of the Gophers' first fifteen points, and looked near unstoppable at times in the first half. Murphy was one of four players to score for Minnesota in the first half. Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason, and Bakary Konate also got into the action. Konate had a solid first half, and showed off a jump hook and a jump shot. It remains to be seen if the big man can put together a full 40 minutes, but there are flashes of a decent college player.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, they only had 29 points at the break. Fortunately for the Gophers, Michigan State without Denzel Valentine is not anywhere as talented. After a buzzer beater three by Dorsey, the Gophers were only down 3 at the break.
The second half saw Michigan State begin to impose its will on the game. Bryn Forbes made several baskets, and Matt Costello effectively bruised his way to fouls and layups. Minnesota made it a one point game, but was never able to take the lead, and Michigan State pulled out the eight point victory. The Four Factors are below.
Michigan State won three of the four factors. Minnesota's eFG% was again under 45%. The Gophers are a horrendous shooting team this year, and against a good defense were unable to get many good looks. Nate Mason was 5-17 from the field, and made only 2 of 10 shots inside the line. Jordan Murphy was snakebit in the second half and missed several shots inside four feet. Carlos Morris and Joey King combined to be 3-14 from the field.
The Gophers operate an offense that devolves to functional iso sets far too often. There is little off the ball movement, which would be more tolerable if the two man games were run well. They are not. Moreover, given the Gophers lack of shooting ability defenses do not need to worry about leaving Minnesota shooters open to help on dribble penetration. Spacing is also a concern. On many half court sets, the Gophers stay too close to each other, allowing one defender to guard two offensive players. As a consequence of the iso sets, Minnesota ball handlers put up a lot of problematic shots. That is, guards tend to be throwing floaters at the rim or the set devolves into a contested three.
The defense was noticeably better for most of the game. Minnesota based out of a zone defense that kept Michigan State outside. For the most part, this strategy worked. The Spartans were just 3-14 from three point range, and with the slow pace of the game were never really able to take full control. Clearly Michigan State misses Denzel Valentine, but the Gophers showed that they have the capability to get stops on defense. Whether this is a game to build off or an aberration is an open question.
Charles Buggs received another DNP-Coach's decision. At this juncture, it has become apparent that Pitino does not trust Buggs on the floor, which is disappointing.
Kevin Dorsey did not look hobbled after returning from a heel injury. The freshman's shot was noticeably more confident yesterday.
A Brief Rant about the commentary
Once again, college basketball commentators decided to make multiple mentions of the fact that it is cold in Minnesota in January. Never mind that it is cold just about everywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line in January. The weather does not affect the game being played because the game is indoors. It is a lazy statement to make and provides little to no value to those watching at home.
Karl Ravech also could not tell the difference between Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou, which is odd because they look different, wear different numbers, and are of different height.
Minnesota travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State on Tuesday.