Minnesota lost in overtime to Michigan at the Crisler Center 76-73. The Gophers are now 14-11 on the season and 3-9 in conference play. Isaiah Washington led all scorers with 26 points.
Richard Pitino has clearly made a decision that there is no point to playing anything other than a small ball lineup for the rest of the season. Today, without Amir Coffey again as well as Gaston Diedhiou, he opted for Davonte Fitzgerald at center. Early on, the decision worked. Minnesota burst out to an early lead behind a hot shooting Nate Mason.
As continues to be the case with a depleted team, Minnesota’s fatigue set in the second half. The Gophers were unable to get critical stops when it mattered. Nonetheless, with 10 minutes to play Minnesota was up ten points. Unfortunately, foul trouble affected the team and they were unable to counter a Michigan run to take the lead. The Gophers called back thanks to strong play from Isaiah Washington. After a bonkers travel call, Nate Mason made a three pointer with five seconds left to force overtime.
Minnesota and Michigan were deadlocked in the overtime period until Jordan Murphy picked up his fifth foul. After that Michigan was able to make a few buckets late to pull out the win.
Isaiah Washington has come in for justifiable criticism this season for poor play. Today was the first game since the Providence game where he showed why people were excited about him. He finished with 26 points on 11/16 shooting, made all three of his free throws, had six rebounds, and three assists. Washington made several highlight reel finger rolls. If he can maintain that kind of performance and up the assist rates, I will be mighty happy. The last two games Washington has been more relaxed on the court, willing to let the game come to him and avoid forcing the issue. His quickness is an automatic mismatch for any defender. If he can find his outside shot, the Gophers will have a strong replacement at PG next year.
Nate Mason also played like a 1st Team All Big Ten PG today. He had 22 points, five rebounds, but only 2 assists. Mason has been in a bit of a shooting slump, so it was nice to see a breakout game.
The last 14 minutes of the game was some of the most brutal officiating I’ve seen all year. Both teams have calls to complain about, though as a Minnesota fan I’ll note that Michigan is decidedly plus in the makeup call column. The game should have never gone to overtime because either 1. Robinson was obviously fouled prior to the travel or 2. Murphy was called for a foul because Michigan is a bunch of floppers. Pick your laundry and then take your pick on which story you prefer.
Alternatively, Michigan could have shot a reasonable percentage from the foul line and wouldn’t have had to worry about a call going against them late. The Wolverines were 12-28 from the charity stripe. That is Dwight Howard yips bad.
Minnesota’s defensive rotations became noticeably worse in the second half as fatigue set in. Playing zone against Michigan is a fool’s errand, but I hope Pitino considers it against Nebraska to give his guys a break on the defensive end. For that matter, I wish that Pitino would stop coaching guys to crash into the lane and leave their man wide open in the corner. I don’t expect to have either wish granted.