Minnesota lost to Penn State 52-50 in Happy Valley. The Gophers’ blew a 14 point halftime lead thanks to a miserable second half showing in all facets of the game. With the loss, Minnesota is now 3-3 in conference play and 15-4 on the year. Today was the second time the Gophers have lost a game after being up double digits at halftime. Reggie Lynch led all Minnesota scorers with 12 points.
This loss was a massive disappointment, and not just because the Gophers led by double digits at halftime. Minnesota’s offense for the game had an effective field goal percentage of 43%. The Gophers had as many turnovers as made field goals. After having their worst performance of the season against Michigan State, the Gophers’ enjoyed it so much they replicated the .72 points per possession in Happy Valley. Credit Penn State for having a good plan on defense and executing, but it’s much easier to execute a plan when there are no adjustments made whatsoever. The Gophers were allergic to feeding the post once a big had established position.
Despite having a height advantage on every player who guarded him, Amir Coffey was never isolated on the post. The star freshman has been sidelined in his own offense. Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch both had difficulty reading where double teams were coming from.
The offensive woes are structural. Michigan State laid out the blueprint to stopping the current iteration of the offense and Pitino has done little to nothing to change that. I recognize that the team was up by double digits at halftime, so why am I writing as if the sky is falling? Well, the same problems that have afflicted Minnesota all year have been exacerbated over the last three games. Even during the blowout of Ohio State, the Gophers had long scoreless stretches. I do not believe that this team has the talent of Kentucky, but they are too talented to go into turtle mode on offense.
When the base offense is not working, it is the responsibility of the coaching staff to make adjustments to put players in position to succeed. Today was the first game of the season where Pitino coached “young.”
Minnesota only shot 11 free throws. Penn State did a good job in defending the lane, but Minnesota frequently chose to move the ball around the perimeter instead of get the ball inside.
I’m not sure if it is because moving screens are called so inconsistently, but Minnesota’s screens are atrocious. Then again, if there was almost no chance that after setting a good screen I’d be looked to as the roll man I’m not sure I would set good screens either.
Penn State scored 10 points on a lovely little two man game with a pick and hard dive to the basket. Chambers clearly saw that Minnesota was slow to rotate on the back side when defending pick and rolls and drew up a nice set to attack that weakness. It would be nice if Pitino stole that play.
Despite all the sky falling rhetoric from above I do believe that this team has talent and should still make the NCAA Tournament. Young basketball teams go through stretches where they play poorly. What that means is that their coaches need to earn their paychecks.