Minnesota defeated Michigan 73-71 in Ann Arbor. The Gophers are now above .500 in Big Ten play and 11-3 on the season. Mike Mitchell led all scorers with 18 points.
Is this a world beating Michigan team? Lol, absolutely not. Am I stoked to watch Minnesota win conference games on the road. You damn well betcha I am. Here are five quick takeaways.
Good Elijah Hawkins is incredibly fun to watch.
Point guards man. When they work, they really work. Elijah Hawkins has unlocked a staid offensive playbook and the offense is much better as a result. I am starting to see what Ben Johnson wants to do on offense. Hawkins had 14 points, seven assists, and only two turnovers. My favorite play of the game was Hawkins crossing over a big on a switch and delivering a perfect no look pass to Joshua Ola Joseph for a dunk.
CBJ brought a game plan tonight
Was this a perfectly played game? No. Do I think that this is the best coaching job of the season from the Minnesota staff? I do. I really do. The Gophers were balanced throughout, kept the pace of the game at their tempo and found lots of different ways to score. Five Gophers were in double figures.
Pharrel Payne is a monster on defense
Pharrel Payne had four blocks and many more solid contests on defense. Most importantly, he was flat out tougher than any Michigan opponent tonight. Winning on the road in the Big Ten requires teams to having a physical presence inside. The Gophers have that in spades with Payne. While his defense remains his calling card, Payne added 12 points on offense. I still believe that he has not gotten close to his ceiling as a college prospect, which is exciting.
Turns out basketball is easy when you make shots
42% from distance wins a lot of basketball games. When Minnesota can make shots from distance (not settling for them, a topic for another time), the cuts open up from the wings and the bigs have room to operate on the block.
Minnesota has more wins at this point in the season than all last year
Michigan currently is not a good basketball team, but after last season every win is fun. If you told me prior to the season that 14 games in Minnesota would have three losses and all three of them were mostly self inflicted I would have laughed. I’m not sure how much my pre-season expectations for the team has changed, but I am starting to think about it. What a fun flight of thought to have.