Category Archives: Big 10-ACC Challenge

Seniors don’t show up as Gophers lose to FSU

The Gophers knew they were going to need a nearly flawless game to beat Florida State, and the combination of bad fouls, bad shooting, and bad seniors were far from flawless. FSU won 75-61, and the ACC is on its way to winning another Big 10-ACC challenge.

For the first ten minutes of the game, both teams relentlessly pushed the ball up and down the court. Even though this style should have benefited the Seminoles, the Gophers hung around, and even led for a short time. As if someone hit a switch, the game slowed dramatically and the Gophers were unable to execute the half court offense.

While the long scoring droughts were reminiscent of last year, the Gophers remained active on offense, but simply couldn’t make shots. Like last game, the Gophers took dramatically more shots than their opponents. Florida State was 22-52 while Minnesota shot  24-71 as the Gophers pulled down 19 offensive rebounds. Despite most of the offensive rebounds being secured inches from the basket, Minnesota just couldn’t make their layups. Seemingly every possession featured Dan Coleman and Damian Johnson missing gimme after gimme.

Most of Florida State’s gimmes were at the free throw line, and they took advantage by shooting 27-32 compared to 6-10 for the Gophers. The Gophers once again showed a propensity to commit unnecessary fouls, many of them due to their lack of quickness and athleticism against Florida State’s line-up. In my preview for this game I mentioned that quickness could be a concern, and it turned out to be the deciding factor in the game.

You may have noticed that I have barely mentioned the “big three” for the Gophers, and this is for good reason. There just isn’t that much to write about. Spencer Tollackson displayed admirable effort on the boards, but was simply too slow to make much impact on offense or defense. Florida State forced the Gophers to set up the offense far out on the floor, and many times it was necessary for Tollackson to free up the ball handler with a screen, making it difficult to position himself down low. Other times the Gopher guards didn’t have an angle to pass it into the post. Dan Coleman was once again a liability on both ends of the floor, refusing to play aggressive offense and committing fouls or simply being out of position on defense. Lawrence McKenzie had a cold shooting night, and demonstrated that he has not completely abandoned the selfish decision making of last year. When any team’s three best players all have their worst game of the season on the same night, they won’t win many games.

There is definitely some silver lining to this disappointing loss. Despite quickly falling behind 8-0 the Gophers kept playing, and quickly made up the deficit. Much of the comeback was due to the sharp play of the second team (I believe tonight was the 5th or 6th line change this season by Tubby Smith). Damian Johnson continues to play better than anyone expected, and Blake Hoffarber played his best game of the season.

The last few years, this type of loss would send the Gophers on downward spiral often resulting in a season killing losing streak. We should be able to tell just how far this team has come when they play on Saturday. No one expects this team to win 30 games, but to come close to 20 wins, they will need to learn from their mistakes and execute better each game. Tubby shouldn’t have any problem finding teachable moments from tonight’s loss.

Who Did What?

  • Dan Coleman was bad. Towards the end of the game he finally started playing aggressively for the first time this season, and made some open lay ups. If I was 6’9″ I’d be content dunking on people, not shooting floaters and fade-aways.
  • Spencer Tollackson showed that the classic Big 10 big man isn’t meant for the ACC.
  • Al Nolen started and looked shaky in the first few minutes of the game. He eventually calmed down and had three assists to go along with three early turnovers. Even though this was his most freshman-like game, he still hasn’t had more turnover than assists in a game.
  • Lawrence McKenzie needed an Iowa State type game. Instead we got Lawrence vs Army instead.
  • Kevin Payton- No points, no rebounds, one assist, two turnovers: quite average for him actually.
  •  Jonathan Williams had 4 points and a huge block in limited work. He was another victim of Florida States athleticism.
  • Blake Hoffarber played his best game of his career by far. He finished with 12 points to lead the team on 5-9 shooting. He had three turnovers, but that is not a bad trade off considering he was the only Gopher to consistently make open shots.
  • Lawrence Westbrook played great in the first half, and not so great in the second half. Despite being the shortest man on the floor, he pulled down six rebounds, three of them offensive. I still can’t believe Dan Monson couldn’t find some use for him.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala played as he has every game this season. A decent game for a spot shooter off the bench, and now that he officially is a spot shooter off the bench, I can’t complain.
  • Damian Johnson showed that he could be much better if he could just finish after grabbing an offensive rebound. Still, considering what many were expecting from his this season, no complaints.

Gopher vs Seminoles, ACC vs Big Ten

The Gophers face Florida State tomorrow night in the ACC-Big 1o Challenge, in what will be a key game for two possible bubble teams. While many will focus on Big 10 losing streak in these challenges, and apologists for both sides will defend their conference to the death, I am just happy that this marks the return of on-campus college basketball games that matter. Few things annoy me more than lackadaisical basketball on neutral courts in meaningless tournaments which now fills every non-football waking (and sleeping thank to Hawaii and Alaska) moment during Thanksgiving weekend.

Last week, the Gophers beat Iowa State on the road and Central Michigan at home. The Iowa State game showed just how far the Gophers have come since last year’s disappointing season and the Central Michigan game showed just how far they still have to go. A repeat of the out of sync and at times lackluster performance displayed Saturday night will not be enough. Hopefully it had more to do with a post Thanksgiving hangover between two big road games than a regression to last year’s point a minute offensive pace.

Like Minnesota, Florida State is a difficult team to figure out. After a season opening home win against now free falling UAB, FSU they were also in the mood for a free-fall, at least for a few days. They lost to Cleveland State and South Florida, teams that have already lost to Georgia Southern and South Florida respectively. Following those two losses FSU went into Gainsville and completely dominated the back to back national champions. Apparently, the Seminole want to secure their spot on the bubble early this year.

The last two years FSU has failed to make the NCAA tournament following seasons as confusing as this one so far. They beat Duke on the road but then lost five ACC games in a row, as if they were challenging the selection committeee to disregard what should have been a resume solidifying victory. Al Thorton, their leading all-everything leading scorer has left for the NBA, but they return their four other starters including a strong back court.

As pointed over at Down with Goldy, the majority of skill and scoring for FSU can be found in their back-court. Most would agree that the Gopher’s strength is their front court, but at least on the defensive end, they have been a liability, especially against Iowa State. With Florida State’s limited front court punch, the Gophers should dominate on the inside.

Florida State has always been one of the most athletic teams in the ACC, and there is no reason to doubt that this will be the case again this year. The Gopher guards have been able to shut down opposing back courts so far, but this will their toughest game defensive test. Al Nolen and the Lawrences will be able to hold their own for a while, but if they get tired, the Seminole will be able to run all over Blake Hoffarber, Jamal Abu-Shamala, and Kevin Payton. It will be essential for the top three Gopher guards to stay out of trouble. Don’t expect a lot of scoring out of the Gopher back-court as they will use most of their energy chasing around Florida State’s guards.

To win, the Gophers will need to play their best game so far this season. Coming off the turnover fest against Central Michigan, I just don’t see the Gophers putting together a solid 40 minutes. I expect Florida State jumping to a big lead, the Gophers clawing their way back, but just not enough to win. Florida State wins 73-67. Of course, this is also the team that lost Cleveland State. If the Gophers that beat Iowa State show up, and Florida State plays as badly as they are capable of, the score and the result could easily be reversed. The best part is you can actually see it for yourself. That’s right, the game is actually on TV, on ESPN2

And for those paying attention, this is yet another game against a teams with maroon and/or gold colors. Southwest State, Iowa State, and Central Michigan also have team colors similar to the Gophers. Next year their should be a tournament, or at the very least a trophy awarded to the top maroon and gold team in the country.