Minnesota defeated Nebraska at Williams Arena 76-65 to win its first conference game of the seasons. The Gophers outscored Nebraska 52-26 in the second half. Joshua Ola-Joseph led all scorers with 15 points.
Y’all, I’m going to be honest. I thought this game was over two minutes in when Dawson Garcia rolled his ankle and had to leave. Without their best player, primary scorer, and “reason that you can’t actually send doubles from the weak side when Payne has the ball” player, I did not think that Minnesota had a chance to take a win. Bring on 0-2 in conference and another round of sighing in the comments. For most of the first half, I was right. The Gophers looked confused and out of sorts on offense. On defense, Minnesota looked slow (with the exception of Braedon Carrington) on rotations. Nebraska built a fifteen point lead to go into the half up 39-24.
Then the second half happened. Minnesota scored 52 points on 63% shooting. The Gophers’ defense, mostly porous in the first half, came to life in the second half. Rotations were crisp, Braedon Carrington was still awesome, and the Gophers forced 12 turnovers which lead to 16 points. Due to some halftime adjustments, Pharrel Payne started getting the ball on the low block instead of 16 feet from the basket. Mike Mitchell and Elijah Hawkins hit several threes down the stretch, and Minnesota walked away with a win.
Notes and superlatives
Joshua Ola-Joseph had his best game in as a Gopher and assuming that Garcia is out for any length of time should become the starter at the 4. Of his 15 points, 13 came in the second half, as did all five of his offensive rebounds. Those rebounds were huge, not only extending possessions, but also getting put back points. He also made a clutch three pointer late in the second half. Basketball is a simple game. Be talented and work hard and success will happen. JOJ did that tonight.
Braedon Carrington had 13 points on 4-10 shooting (1-4 from distance), and why that offense was important, what was far more important was his defense tonight on Keise Tominaga. Tominaga had just five field goal attempts, and missed all of them. That was mostly because Carrington never let him have any space on offense. I do not know if Carrington will ever figure out his shooting, but these defensive efforts are becoming the norm.
Elijah Hawkins had a double double tonight with 12 points and 11 assists. That’s great! He also had four turnovers. Less great!
Like JOJ, Mike Mitchell had his best game in a Gopher uniform. Mitchell had 12 points on mediocre shooting, so why was this is best game? Because in the second half Mitchell had five steals. Minnesota won the game by five possessions.
Parker Fox had two great defensive blocks in the second half.
There are plenty of aspects of the game to be critical about, and I am sure we will all have an opportunity to be critical about them in the comments. For now though, Minnesota has won almost as many conference games as they did all last year. Take the wins when we get them.