Minnesota defeated Arkansas State 82-75 at Williams Arena. With the win, Minnesota finishes the non-conference season 12-1. Dupree McBrayer led all Minnesota scorers with 19 points. Devin Carter led all scorers with 23.
Unsurprisingly, the final match-up of the non-conference season was not a terrifying foe. Despite an upset over Georgetown, Arkansas State never looked up for another upset against Minnesota. The Gophers shot an effective field goal percentage of 60% and were able to consistently create open looks. Dupree McBrayer was excellent slashing to the basket all night. Akeem Springs had another strong performance from behind the ark. Nate Mason and Amir Coffey (more on the latter later) effectively ran the offense when required.
With that said, the final score tells a few different stories about the game. First, the final score was closer than the game. After taking an early lead, Minnesota controlled the entire game, forced turnovers, and kept Arkansas State’s offense under control. If Minnesota makes their free throws at a reasonable rate, then this game was a double digit win.
Conversely, the final score shows the difficulties Minnesota encountered during this game. The Gophers struggled from the free throw line, and had multiple stretches of several minutes without making a field goal. This was disappointing given the Gophers talent and size advantage at every position.
As the Gophers enter Big Ten play, the mistakes of this game need to be corrected. Minnesota has had at least one extended scoreless stretch in each game against a reasonable opponent so far this year. With the exception of the Florida State game, that scoreless stretch has ultimately not affected the outcome of the game. That will change in Big Ten play.
One possible reason for scoreless stretches is that the Gophers are unable to run their main action and do not have enough secondary options. The move to put Amir Coffey at the point guard should provide an additional resource to run set plays. Moving Mason off the ball means that a deadly shooter has to be accounted for on defensive rotations. The Gophers showed off a few looks, two of which led to Mason baskets.
Another problem afflicting the Gophers during scoreless stretching is overdribbling. The Gophers do not have a chance to get to their second option because their first option has spent close to 30 seconds dribbling away on the perimeter. The dribbling affliction is particularly frustrating to watch because multiple bigs have rolled free to the basket for no reason.
Still, that is picking a lot of nits over a game that was as close of a trap game as possible. Big Ten play is upon us and the Gophers control their destiny in ways that few thought possible when the season began. That’s a nice Christmas present for fans.