Minnesota survived a horrific night at the foul line and multiple Michigan comebacks to emerge victorious in overtime 83-78 today at Williams Arena. With the win, the Gophers are now 8-6 in Big Ten play and 20-7 overall. Just in case one forgot, Minnesota had eight wins all last season. Jordan Murphy led all Minnesota scorers with 16.
The first half was a slow burn as both teams had difficulty making any shots. The Gophers had a slim lead at halftime despite poor shooting. The shooting improved in the second half, but only so much. Michigan outshot the Gophers from the field. Where Minnesota was dominant was getting the free throw line. On each possession where the Gophers attacked the basket, they were rewarded with points or free throw opportunities. Nate Mason was particularly effective in the second half at keeping the offense going downhill.
Now that we are this far into the season, I can once again inquire why Pitino does not run more set offense. The Gophers tend to do very well from an efficiency perspective when they run a set play. In particular, the set with Curry at the elbow has a fantastic efficiency perspective because it tends to isolate a bigger guard on a smaller guard close to the basket.
In addition, Minnesota reverted to a troubling habit of being unable to hit free throws. The game would never have gone to overtime if Minnesota had made free throws at their season average. For an extended period, they shot so badly that DeAndre Jordan would have taken pity on them.
Speaking of troubling habits, Reggie Lynch fouled out with four fouls today. I say fouled out because he did not return after the fourth. When Lynch was on the floor, Michigan had no answer for him on offense or defense. He was too powerful to guard and too strong of an interior presence to bully. Tonight was fortunate in that the Gophers made enough plays to win without him, but Lynch needs to cut down the silly fouls for the Gophers to play at their best.
Fortunately, in Lynch’s absence Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry stepped up. Murphy had another double double and appears to be back (against all competition without a strong inside presence) which is wonderful. He has played within the offense and appears to have focused on keeping his effort high on the defensive glass. This is an unabashed positive for Minnesota. Curry also stepped up and looked much older than just a freshmen. He had a midrange game working tonight and made several nice jumpers.
Let’s talk about the officiating. It was horrendous, for both sides. Then again, Minnesota never gets those kinds of calls at home, though they do frequently get the ones against them. I thought all game about how at some point Ted Valentine was going to T up a coach and sure enough he did. Look at me talking about how Michigan can feel legitimately annoyed with home court officiating. I’m like a Wisconsin fan but with self-awareness.
Also that’s a blocking foul at the end of regulation and Mason should have been able to shoot free throws. If it’s a foul with 18 minutes to go in the game, it’s a foul with two seconds left.
Amir Coffey is so clutch that he makes me want to believe that clutch is a thing and not just random noise that humans foolishly turn into patterns. The freshman was 6-6 from the line and made most of those late.
Nate Mason is a first team All-BIG PG. Come at me.
The Magic number is 1.