Minnesota lost to Maryland 82-67 in a game that was much closer than the final score. Minnesota drops to 2-2 in conference play and 12-3 on the season. Amir Coffey led the Gophers with 16 points.
This was a frustrating game to watch because we saw both the best and the worst of Minnesota. The best of this team is vicious in transition, tenacious on defense, and solid in the half court. The worst of this team shoots 9-23(!!!) from the free throw line, goes cold at the worst possible time against a zone, and lets the opponent shoot 70%(!!!) from the field. To be fair, Maryland made some stupid shots in the second half, but the majority were good looks in the flow of their offense.
Credit Maryland too. This is the first legitimately good team that Minnesota has played all season. They are athletic, tough, and have a great starting five. With that said, Minnesota had yet another opportunity to put a game away early in the second half and was unable to finish. The Gophers are a good team, but still inconsistent. And oh so inconsistent against a zone defense. We’ve discussed this before, but it is a dereliction of duty if a team plays man against the Gophers. Richard Pitino had a great game plan against Maryland’s man defense. Amir Coffey was getting into the lane at will, scoring or finding teammates for good looks. Richard Pitino also had a reasonable game plan against a zone defense, but the Gophers didn’t execute. As Mark Turgeon said after the game, sometimes the game is as easy as “we made our shots and they missed theirs. We made our free throws and they missed theirs.”
Speaking of free throws.
9-23 is inexcusable. Now, Minnesota will not shoot sub 40% from the free throw line all season, but the free throw line continues to be a weakness. If the Gophers shot their season average, the game would have been two possessions or less with two minutes to play. Again, Maryland shot the lights out of the building, and the Gophers would still have been in it at the end if they shot free throws at their season average. Amir Coffey was 3-8 from the line. Jordan Murphy was 3-9. Minnesota also missed several front ends of one and ones. That is not a coaching problem. That’s just a hellacious day from the line.
Gabe Kalscheur got back on track tonight. The freshman was 3-5 from deep and 2-2 from the free throw line. Kalscheur also had a lovely runner in the first half. He was beat a few times on defense, but then so was just about everyone in the second half.
Isaiah Washington continues to be an excellent pass first point guard and a less than stellar shoot first point guard. He looked great in the first half and less great in the second half.