Bouncing back from a loss against Florida State in which the seniors failed to make a difference, Damian Johnson and the rest of the underclassman once again had to pick up the slack as the Gophers trounced lowly UC-Riverside. Giving up their second lowest point total ever, the Gophers won 75-38. In a season full of pre-conference cupcakes, the Highlanders (whose mascot is a bear for some reason) are the worst so far.
Damian Johnson had his best game as a Gopher. In my preview of yesterday’s game, I mentioned the all Johnson needs to work on is his shooting, particularly near the basket. Johnson did just that making all five of his field goal attempts and finishing with 12 points. As he has become accustomed to doing, he filled the rest of the stat sheet as well, with 7 rebounds, three blocks, three steals, and countless altered shots and deflections.
The loss to Florida State gave the Gophers plenty to work on, and the Highlanders gave the Gophers a perfect punching bag. As a team, the Gophers continued their trade mark defensive pressure, forcing 21 turnovers while only giving up 14 field goals. On the offensive end, the horrendous shooting against Florida State did not lead to a hangover. Minnesota started hot stayed hit. They were shot 53% from the free throw line and shot 47% from the field for the game. They continued their dominance on the offensive glass, and were +10 overall in rebounding. Most importantly, the Gophers were active on offense and moved the ball well, recording 21 assists on their 25 assists, including 6 by Kevin Payton in 9 minutes. In previous games the Gophers assist to field goal ratio was often 2:1 in the wrong direction.
Despite the lopsided score, there is still more to improve upon. Even facing a team as bad as, the Gophers gave up 13 turnovers, almost all of them unforced. However, the real concerns continue to involve individuals. The season that began with assumptions of a senior led team without much help has quickly become the season of the underclassman, with real questions swirling around the senior. While Lawrence McKenzie returned to form, Dan Coleman continues to play tentatively, and Spencer Tollackson struggled again from the floor.
Dan Coleman has an NBA body, and has shown flashes of NBA potential in the past. An athletic 6-9 forward with a decent outside shot should at the very least have solid games against inferior competition. Instead, Coleman had what may have been his worst game of the season. PJS asks if the Gopher forward is in Tubby’s dog house. If he isn’t, he should be He picked up two quick fouls and scored only six points. Limited minutes, and therefore limited stats due to foul trouble happen occasionally, and aren’t too troubling. My concern with Coleman continues to be how he plays the game. Coleman can’t seem to make up his mind when he gets the ball. Once he starts to make a move, he can’t seem to decide where to go. Nearly every movement he makes appears to be the product of an excruciatingly difficult decision. The athletic advantage that he often has is completely neutralized. While some has criticized his effort, I think the real issue is that he just has too many other things on his mind. He has already graduated, and may be focusing on the rest of his life. The world would be a better place if more college athletes realized there is more to life than shoe contracts and million dollar houses, but this doesn’t make watching Coleman play any less agonizing.
Spencer Tollackson also had a difficult game. He continues to have problems getting into position on the block, leading to lots of spinning and flailing shots that are just out of his range. He also made a few mental errors including at least two blind cross court passes that landed in the crowd. On each occasion, Tubby Smith gave Spencer plenty of time to think about what he had done. After benching his seniors against Florida State, it should come as no surprise that Tubby would bench a senior in a blow out. Despite a less than stellar game, Tollackson continues to show the admirable effort he is known for.
Who did what:
- Dan Coleman continued to struggle. Even though he is a senior, he may be at risk of losing playing time to Damian Johnson.
- Jamal Abu-Shamala had his best shooting game of the season, hitting 3-6 from behind the three point line for 11 points and 4 rebounds.
- Spencer Tollackson scored a hard-earned 10 points but was only 4-10 from the floor.
- Lawrence Westbrook struggled, making only 1 of 4 shots. His early season progress appears to have been an aberration.
- Lawrence McKenzie is back to making threes. He led the team in scoring with 18 points, 15 from behind the arc.
- Kevin Payton still refuses to shoot, but at least this time his passes went where they were supposed to go. Six assists in 9 minutes with no shots points, rebounds, blocks, or steals.
- Jonathan Williams had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and not much else.
- Al Nolen continued to be a steady presence in the back court with 4 assists and one turnover.
- Blake Hoffarber had another good game, and showed that he can get his shot off in a hurry from just about anywhere. He had 13 points on 4 threes along with 4 steals.
- Damian Johnson is Trevarus Bennet 2.o.
- Ryan Saunders should be on Project Runway
- Tubby Smith was riled up, and wasn’t afraid to yell at the ref’s or his team. At least for a day he abandoned the glare and told his players what they needed to do and how to do it.
- The Barnyard returned in force, especially for a snowy day against a weak team. Does any one have a hard hat they want to give away? Its been 10 years since the hard hat guys occupied the student section. I may never carry Bobby Jackson around the court, but I do want to bring their spirit back to the barn.
- The rest of crowd wasn’t bad either. It was nothing like the good old days, but given the horrible driving conditions and the even worse win walking to The Barn, anyone that made it to the game deserves a pat on the back.