Since the Minnesota Golden Gophers mailed it in on the court in Columbus today, I’m going to mail in the recap of the game. The players looked lethargic. An offensive plan and/or scheme was non-existent. Coach Pitino showed no ability to coax anything out of his team and seemed content to watch the offense resemble a clogged toilet for a vast majority of the game. Meanwhile, through poor communication and lackadaisical effort, the defensive gave up wide open threes, dunks, and layups.
Buckeye forward Trevor Thompson ate Gopher center Reggie Lynch’s lunch. Guard Mark Loving was hitting anything and everything.
Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy both appear to be permanently broken. Amir Coffey disappeared for long periods of time. Dupree McBrayer had two airballs. Bakary Konate momentarily forgot he was a center and shot a three-pointer.
This is what I had written fifteen minutes into the game.
Then the Gophers, thanks mostly to senior guard Akeem Spring’s tenacious play on both sides of the ball, lead to a Minnesota 12-0 to end the 1st half. By finally playing something resembling defense and hitting some transition buckets, Minnesota only found themselves down five points at the half after playing quite possibly their worst 20 minutes of the season.
Inconsistent play continued to plague the Gophers well into the second half. However, slowly but surely, Ohio State cooled from the free throw line and the field. After a few missed free throws and jumpers from the Buckeyes, Minnesota found themselves down by 10 with 6:45 left in the game. Then, all of a sudden, Mason hit a running right-handed, left-sided layup. A Buckeye shot was partially blocked and Coffey had a run out dunk in transition. And a Buckeye turnover led to a Mason kick for an open Coffey three. The game had become a 66-63 contest in favor of Ohio State with just under 4:45 left.
A back and forth battle ensued where both teams had their chances. However, the Gophers, as gophers are wont to do, just dug too deep a hole. Mason and Springs had big time threes, but the fifty-fifty balls and free throw shooting down the stretch seemed to fall in the Buckeye's favor. Some mercurial refereeing decisions made things extremely interesting in the last two minutes of the game and Springs had a great look to tie the game with 20 seconds left from the left corner.
But it was not to be.
The Gophers had lost their 4th straight conference game, and what had appeared to be a possible conference champion contender had quickly transformed into a spiraling out of control squad desperate for a win.
- I never thought I would ever say this but Akeem Springs is currently our best player and most consistent player. The guy had a double-double via points and rebounds from the shooting guard position tonight. His insertion into the starting lineup has been both deserved and necessary. He has been tenacious on the defensive side of the floor and effective and efficient on offense. He is playing like the fifth year senior he is, and now he needs to translate the quality play into some on-floor leadership as well and get the rest of the squad to get their heads out of their John Brown hind parts.
- Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy combined for a front court poo-poo platter of epic proportions tonight. Neither of the pair could hit a layup, both had a few terrible turnovers, and both still are horrible from the free throw line.
- Dupree McBrayer has gone from massively improved to on-court liability. He was 2-7 from the field, had two turnovers, and didn’t play the defense we are accustom to seeing out of him.
Minnesota’s season sits in the balance, as a four game losing streak in conference has derailed a once promising season. Pitino needs to figure out an offensive game plan outside of slash and kick, especially when it becomes stagnant so blatantly for such long periods of time. The Gophers return home on Saturday to host first place Maryland at the Barn. A win could resurrect this season. A loss and the tire fire could be full on blaze before the month of February has even begun.