Well that was a bummer. Minnesota showed glimpses of what could be a big step forward, but unfortunately also many reasons that they are picked to finish in the bottom third of the conference.
The first half was the most fun I have had watching this team in two years. If you were a non-partisan you would also have enjoyed it. Both Minnesota and Missouri happily played up tempo, shot the ball well, and made impressive defensive plays. The Gophers were 7-14 from distance in the first half and shot 48% from the field overall. Seven different players scored for the Gophers. Minnesota also out-rebounded the Tigers 22-12, including eight offensive boards. It was not all pretty and perfect. There was a five minute stretch of stagnation, accompanied by a few too many “too clever by half” passes that allowed Missouri to keep the game close.
Defensively, the Gophers had some trouble keeping Missouri out of the paint. The Tigers’s quick breaks after defensive rebounds got them mismatches in the lane. Still, the Gophers kept the Tigers generally off the glass, and Pharrel Payne closed out the first half with a vicious highlight reel block.
In the second half, the Gophers were the beneficiaries of some very stupid decisions by the Tigers. The most prominent was Caleb Grill’s decision to get uber mad about a ref not calling Payne for a foul when Grill clearly flopped followed by Grill bumping the official. That is an automatic ejection, and Dawson Garcia made all four free throws. Reader, I cannot remember the last time I watched a player take four free throws in a row.
Of course, while the ceiling for Minnesota might be higher than we expected, the floor is to paraphrase Denny Green, exactly what we thought it was. The game would not be easy in part due to some stupid decisions from Minnesota. Trailing by 20 at one point in the second half, Missouri went on a 24-6 run by turning the Gophers over and getting big shots from Nick Honor. Minnesota’s offense also went into a strange isolation shell, and rarely found Dawson Garcia. The Gophers last made shot from the field was with six minutes to go in the second half.
Braeden Carrington’s offensive numbers tonight are ugly tonight. Nonetheless, he made a massive impact on defense and on hustle plays. Some idiot wrote in the TDG writer’s roundtable that Carrington “has [the] potential to be a Gabe Kalscheur like defender” and that idiot is currently smug about that prediction three games into the season.
I do not understand any part of the coaching strategy to try and take the sting out of a game with eight minutes remaining. It is in fact allowed under the rules to run sets that explicitly get the ball to your best player early in the shot clock.
Minnesota started 5-5 from distance and finished 8-23 from the field. Not great!