Minnesota lost to Maryland at College Park 72-59. With the loss, the Gophers drop to 13-8 on the season and 6-8 in conference play. Jamal Mashburn led all scorers with 14 points.
I will level with y’all. I don’t have a clue why Minnesota is so painfully bad for extended stretches on the road. The first half of this game was a comedy of errors on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Liam Robbins picked up two early fouls and had to sit. Minnesota’s defensive rotations were confusing and haphazard, frequently leaving shooters open and lanes wide open. The shooting was putrid. Thanks to a series of clanks and misses, Maryland opened up a 19 point lead through 12 minutes of first half action, and finished the half with a 44-28 lead.
In the second half, the Gophers played like a reasonably competent basketball team. Jamal Mashburn Jr., Isaiah Ihnen, and Tre Williams all put in some of their best performances of the season to mount an attempted comeback. A three pointer by Ihnen cut the game to six with just 3:17 to play. Unfortunately, Maryland’s Aaron Wiggins made a three point shot that had no business getting near the basket, much less through it to keep Minnesota at arms length. Minnesota did not make another basket the rest of the way. Throw in a few garbage time fouls to extend the game, and the score finished 72-59.
Today was a missed opportunity. Maryland finished 50% from three-point range. Much of that had to do with Minnesota’s inexplicable rotations to leave shooters wide open with enough time to do their taxes before taking the shot. I would love to know some of the thinking behind a few coaching decisions throughout this game, particularly when they created unfavorable match-ups on defense.
All that said, Minnesota lost another game because they are a historically bad shooting team. Until that changes, athletic long teams like Maryland will be defensive nightmares. When the shooting exists, at it did briefly in the second half, the Gophers make fools of teams. So it goes.
Jamal Mashburn was the standout player for a second straight game. With his counterpart Marcus Carr struggling to get any offense going, Mashburn played a direct assertive game on offense. The freshman finished with 14 points on 5-11 shooting, and added three assists and three rebounds. He was caught a few times on defense, but those are freshman mistakes. The scoring from the bench is necessary if this team is to have an NCAA Tournament future.
Speaking of the bench, Isaiah Ihnen had his best game of the season. I believe that Ihnen has a ton of potential. Currently, if Brandon Johnson plays the way he does, it is hard to find and justify minutes from Ihnen. Add to a season of poor shooting from distance, and the sophomore’s playing time has been drastically reduced relative to expectation. Tonight, Johnson was plagued with foul trouble, and Ihnen saw extended stretches. He proved deserving of more minutes against athletic bigs. A minor kudos is that Ihnen is very good at keeping alive offensive rebounds and extending possessions for the Gophers.
Tre Williams has locked down the starting spot from Both Gach. Williams is an assertive player, and like Ihnen plays better with extended minutes.
The magic number is unchanged.