Minnesota lost to Michigan State 70-50 in Des Moines. With the loss, Minnesota’s tournament run and season is over. Amir Coffey led all scorers with 27.
Early on, the Gophers were dealt a blow when Jordan Murphy was unable to play with back spasms. Today was the first game of Murphy’s career that he functionally missed. In order to defeat Michigan State, Minnesota needed to have a similar performance from its stars. Losing Murphy was a killer for an already short handed front line.
A special moment as @GopherMBB senior leader Jordan Murphy exits the court one last time. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/uvPVjuu4cS— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 24, 2019
Without Murphy, Minnesota needed the hot shooting from deep from the game against Louisville as the offense transitioned into an outside shooting team to open up driving lanes. Unfortunately, that shooting did not materialize. The Gophers were 2-22 from behind the arc. Amir Coffey was 1-7, and Gabe Kalscheur and Dupree McBrayer combined to be 0-7. That statistic alone is part of the reason why forcing 22 Michigan State turnovers did not appreciably change the result. Minnesota was a poor shooting team from deep all season, and will have to be better on a consistent basis next year to have any hope of improvement. The hope is that Marcus Carr and incoming Tre Williams along with Payton Willis can provide a boost.
With Murphy out, all eyes turned to Amir Coffey. He put up 27 points, but had to do so on 24 shots (8-24 from the field), along with 10-11 from the free throw line. I have no idea if Coffey plans to return next year. I hope he does if he decides that it is the best decision from him. Over the last month he has taken his game to another level, and the addition of a more consistent three point shot over the summer (broken record) and more confidence with his right hand will make him near unguardable at the college level.
Richard Pitino is likely to stay on as coach next year. This season was full of ups and downs, though fortunately more of the former than the latter. For him and the coaching staff, it is on to spring recruiting. In a perfect world, Pitino nets another Jordan Murphy. There is a version of next year’s team that is quite good, and a tournament appearance should be the expectation.
For me personally, this has been my fourth year covering Men’s basketball for this blog. As I say every year, I love being able to do this and being able to hang out virtually with y’all during the winter. I hope you’ll stick around until next year. Go Gophers.