Ben Johnson now has a conference win on his resume. Minnesota defeated Michigan 75-65 in Ann Arbor. It is the first win at Michigan for the Gophers since January 2011. Jamison Battle led all scorers with 27 points.
Look y’all, I am going to remain expectation-less for this season, but wow was this a sweet win. Not just because the Gophers won, which I think is always worth celebrating, but because if you did not know who was in whose jerseys you would have been forgiven for believing that Minnesota was the pre-season top 25 team. Michigan was just 3-16 from distance (the reason they lost the game by the way), and outside of Hunter Dickinson the Gophers solved the problems associated with Michigan’s deeply talented team.
Beyond not turning the ball over for much of the game, the Gophers kept the Wolverines out of the post for the majority of the game. They did that while playing man to man for much of the game, which frankly I did not think possible against a tough Michigan front court. Sure, it is unlikely that most teams will be so barren from deep that the correct defensive move is to give a shooter 10 feet of space and take away the rebound. That does not mean that the Gophers should not get credit for making the right defensive calls to earn that luck.
On offense, the Gophers put up 75 points on 2 assists. Two assists! Jamison Battle and Payton Willis are so far iso-ball masters early in the season. Battle was sensational today, and could have been even better if he could have managed to get more than one three point shot to fall. The lefty exploited defensive matchups to regularly get in the lane. Willis continues to be a calm presence on the perimeter, and a much better ball handler than one expected at the beginning of the season.
It is eminently plausible that the Gophers are ranked on Monday.
Other writers do a “key stat” which if I was serious would be turnovers (Minnesota only had 4 to Michigan’s 8). Since I am not a serious writer, my key stat is that the Gophers held Hunter Dickinson to 50% shooting when defending butt first. Is the turn your back against an opponent’s best play an optimal strategy? Probably not. Is it hilarious? Most definitely.
Sean Sutherlin and E.J. Stephens provide a nice 1-2 on the wing. A maybe under appreciated part of the Gophers’ talent evaluation was finding transfers who can slot into the same structure in the offensive and defensive systems.
Luke Loewe is a much tougher dude than anyone who looks like Sunshine from Remember the Titans has any right to be. I love his energy and tenacity, but I would really like him to start dropping three pointers.
Michigan might have been a touch overrated to start this season. The ease with which Minnesota got into the lane for much of the night suggests some serious leaks in the Wolverines’ defense that the Gophers happily exploited.