Category Archives: The Barnyard

Coleman, Peyton lead Gopher stampede over NDSU

You aren’t seeing things. I did just write that Dan Coleman and Kevin Peyton played key roles in the Gophers surprisingly lopsided 89-56 victory over the Bison. While both players had their best games of the season, it is admittedly a stretch to say either decided the game. In fact, it is  a stretch to say Kevin Peyton had a good game, but given how Coleman  and Peyton have played this season, this may my only opportunity to heap praises upon them at the same time.

If Dan Coleman didn’t have his athleticism, body, and overall skills, I would have very little reason to be frustrated with him. His numbers aren’t horrible. In fact, Jamal Abu-Shamala has become something of fan favorite with similar numbers. The fact is, Coleman is not Abu-Shamala, and should be much better than he has played so far. The reasons for his lack of output are still somewhat mysterious, but most certainly of the psychological/mental variety, and can only be overcome by playing through them. Realizing this, and apparently backtracking from his decision to bench players who are struggling, Tubby Smith played Coleman for 31 minutes, 8 minutes more than any other Gopher.

The Gopher forward is on his way back. Though he still needs to return to form in a few areas, he filled the stat sheet last night.  He scored 15 points on 7-13 shooting, had 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, and 2 blocks. Most importantly, he showed determined effort on both ends of the court, at one point rebounding his own miss three or four times before getting the tip in. He also stuck to what he is best at, finding openings in the zone for easy dunks and 10 foot jumpers. Of course, in what has so far been a disappointing season for Coleman, the story was not all positive. He committed four fouls in what was a very strangely officiated game, and also had four turnover including a dunk he missed by 10 feet (really). The stats were a bit inflated due to the opponent, but it was at least a game that can be built on.

Kevin Peyton, perhaps suffering from the same psychological issues that have afflicted Coleman, showed signs of what made him 25 ppg scorer and track and field superstar in high school. He didn’t shoot much, made some bad turnovers, but also managed to lead some stunning fast breaks and had a few other eye popping assists. I hesitate to say this, but nearing the five minute mark in the second half, he took over the game. Barring and miraculous recoveries by Travis Busch or Ryan Saunders, Kevin Payton will the last player off the bench, but at least he will be the best last player off the bench in the Big 10. Peyton is young, and given the complete system overhaul between his first and second year, it may be more instructive to consider this to be his freshman year. With 2+ years left under Tubby, Peyton may pull an Eric Harris type turn around, or he might continue to be the best worst player. Only time will tell.

As a team, the Gophers built off their improvements against UC-Riverside and completely dominated nearly all facets of the game. They were +3 on turnovers, +9 on rebounds, and outshot NDSU 53%-33%. As was the case against UC-Riverside, they forced nearly as many turnovers as field goals allowed, 19 and 20 respectively.

Against what many think will still be a dangerous team this year, the Gophers showed they are the team no one should overlook.

Who did what:

  • Dan Coleman played his best game of the year, and hopefully has found a reason to be confident or at least interested.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala bled his own blood…alot. He left the game after taking what appeared to be an elbow to the bridge of his nose. After a few stitches and a few encouraging words from his mom, he was back in the game during the extended garbage time. He didn’t do much, but at least he is ok.
  • Spencer Tollackson scored 8 points on 4-7 shooting, but had his playing time limited by fouls. He looked much better on the offensive end.
  • Lawrence Westbrook had 11 points in 15 minutes, but turned the ball over three times.
  • Lawrence McKenzie had an easy 11 points in 4 fouls.
  • Al Nolen showed he can score when he wants to. He tied for the team lead with 15 points on 75% shooting. He had another 5 steals, and has to be a candidate for conference defensive player of the year.
  • Kevin Peyton made a buzzer beating three in the first half and a wide open three in the second half. He also missed 3 other very makeable shots. But at least he is shooting…right?
  • Jonathan Williams dominated when he was in the game. Dunking, passing, mid range jumpers, it was all there for him tonight.
  • Blake Hoffarber was in double figures again with 10 points. He added 6 rebounds and 3 steals, showing he is more than a pretty jump shot.
  • Damian Johnson is human, though a very energetic version of humanity. He had two points and 3 assists, but as usual, impacted the game in ways that aren’t easily reflected in the box score.
  • Travis and Ryan seem to be a little too happy being injured.
  • The crowd was big and loud. If NDSU fans were not there, the attendance would be about what it was for the other games, but The Barnyard was nearly full and the rest of the fans showed their appreciation for Gophers tough defense.
  • Santa, or a very Santa looking Gopher fan remains a Barnyard favorite, but he insists on wearing red. Bad Santa.

The real reason the Gophers are so improved this year: Floor burns

Highlights from the Big Ten Network

Damian Johnson led Gophers win in near record breaker

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.

An ugly win is still a win

Tonight’s match-up against Central Michigan had the potential to be a trap game, and for the first 18 minutes, that potential was in danger of being realized. Eventually, Minnesota shrugged off its sluggishness long enough to win 77-59. The Gophers came out flat, stood still on offense, weren’t careful with the basketball, and forced Tubby Smith to make a line change a few minutes into the game. The next five didn’t fare much better, as Central Michigan hung around for much of the half until Spencer Tollackson hit a perfect 35 foot three point shot as time expired. It was only one of the many occasions when the Chippewa’s couldn’t stop Tollackson.

Carrying the team with his inside scoring and open court dunking, Tollackson finished the game with 14 points on 5-6 shooting (including the three pointer), six rebounds (three offensive), two blocks, and two steals. Most importantly, he stayed out of foul trouble, while forcing the Chippewa big men (and oh were they big, more later) into frustrated fouls. The Lawrences (McKenzie and Westbrook) were also in double figures with 11 and 10 respectively, both on poor shooting nights.

There are bad basketball teams, there are last year’s Gophers, and then there are this year’s Chippewas. In my previous post, I mentioned the improvement Central Michigan made last year. Rather than being the first step in a rebuilding process, last year’s thirteen wins may have been a fluke. I have a hard time believing that Central Michigan will win more than five games. The problems with the team are clichés out of a sports movie (before the new coach, new player, or inspiring injury or illness leads to a championship, close but inspiring loss, or new found confidence or self-awareness). Giordan Watson, their best player, clearly does not trust his teammates. On several possessions he dribbled nearly the whole possession only to make an ill-advised drive to the basket or take a jump shot. He finished with 22 points, but took 20 shots and also committed four turnovers. A 9-20 shooting night might not look that bad, until one considers what the rest of his teammates did. The most shots attempted by any other Central Michigan players was 6. The rest of the Chippewas shot the ball a combined 29 teams. Joining Watson are the unconventional power forward (generously listed 6’3″ 270 lbs) and former Purdue Boilermaker Nate Minnoy; hot headed point guard Jeremy Allan who fouled out on a personal and technical foul combination after only eight minutes; Marko Spika, a whining, crying immensely untalented European big man; and Justin Blevins, who threw what appeared to be an intentional forearm at Damian Johnson and Kevin Payton on the same play. Ernie Ziegler, the Chippewas’ coach, clearly has his work cut out for him, especially with the team showing no interest in listening to him. The dreadfulness of Central Michigan was clearly the deciding factor of the game. Although, in an alarming development, they somehow turned the ball over less than the Gophers. At least the Gophers doubled their assist total over the Iowa State game.

On a random side note, I was selected the “Fuel it up fan of the game” because I remained standing during the time outs. I didn’t have the heart to tell the fan of the game selector that I wasn’t standing because of my undying dedication to all things maroon and gold, but because I have been mostly sedentary since Wednesday afternoon and didn’t want to sit anymore. However, I’ll take the $50 gift card, and especially the opportunity to stand on the court and hear Dick Jankowski say my name. And they say dreams don’t come true.

Who did what:

  • Dan Coleman played soft again on offense, but had eight rebounds to go along with nine points. He added two blocks and two steals. Unfortunately, Coleman had five of the Gopher turnovers.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala made his free throws.
  • Spencer Tollackson dominated again. You probably won’t ever see him make a 30 some footer buzzer beater and have a break away dunk again.
  • Lawrence McKenzie also made his free throws and didn’t do much else.
  • Lawrence Westbrook played much better than last Tuesday, and pulled down a very impressive rebound over several players, many of whom are on his own team.
  • Al Nolen continues to not play like a freshman. He led the team with 5 assists and committed only one turnover while playing solid defense.
  • Kevin Payton may finally have had his plug pulled. He didn’t start and played only 10 minutes. He did start the second half, but immediately turned the ball over on an ugly attempt at a behind the back dribble. It turns out the Payton has a little bit of foot-speed, but is completely out of control when moving faster than a snail’s pace. Three points, three personal fouls, and four turnover aren’t good enough on any team, even Central Michigan. He couldn’t even draw a foul on an intentional quasi-punch.
  • Jonathan Williams made both shots he attempted, pulled down four rebounds, and didn’t foul anyone. This is very encouraging.
  • Blake Hoffarber played his best game as a Gopher, making three three-pointers.
  • Damian Johnson was once again a solid contributer, making a fall away sweeping layup despite being intentionally fouled.
  • Ryan Saunders: modest suit, ugly tie.
  • Travis Busch gets his fashion advice from Saunders.
  • The crowd showed up, including future Gopher Paul Carter, although there were plenty of new (and much older) faces in The Barnyard. It was good to see the upper deck full for a non-conference game.

Though hardly anyone could watch the game because hardly any ISP’s carry ESPN360, there are at least video highlights of tonight’s game available here.

An open letter to The Barnyard

It wasn’t so much the noise, but the shaking. When Williams Arena was at its best, and therefore its loudest, the building would vibrate to a frightening degree. Fans would pound and kick the pillars and exposed pipes, creating a hollow clanking that could be heard just above the roar of the crowd. And oh the crowd!

Pre-season games were sold out, students would show up two hours early and throw frisbees across the court before the game, and the student section was feared. Shot clock violations weren’t just caused by a poorly executed offense, they were caused by players unable to hear each other, their coach, or themselves. The best way to know when there was a shot clock violation was when there was a whole new level of loud, above what had made the whistle and the horn impossible to hear.

Its hard to imagine a sold out crowd waiting for two hours outside on a cold March night, and another two hours inside, just to chant “Beat Kentucky” and welcome the team home. I was lucky enough to see it once, but it only whetted my appetite for more. It’s been a long ten years.

The student section got into people’s heads. They caused Chris Kingsbury to shoot an ill-advised forty footer with 30 seconds on the shot clock, that fell 10 feet short. They forced Judd Heathcoate to sit down, they made Bobby Knight explode, more so than usual. Opposing teams hated The Barn. They knew they would be taunted mercilessly for forty minutes. They knew there would no where to hide on the elevated court. They knew that if they didn’t play their best, they would lose, and they would hear about it. Fans even became minor celebrities, especially if they wore hard-hats and carried Bobby Jackson around the arena.

Williams Arena used to be one of the top three places in the country to watch a game. The place is historic– it even smells old. From the obstructed seats to the raised court to the benches that still make up some of the seating, it isn’t hard to imagine the days when Dave Winfield was best known for his basketball skills, or when the Gophers would win games 8-6. Those days may be gone now, but they can also come back. Tubby Smith may have given the basketball program a new lease on life, but the fans, and especially the students of the University of Minnesota, need to sign that lease.

I applaud the efforts of The Barnyard, and especially the students who have taken upon themselves the task of restoring one of the great traditions of college basketball, but I implore you to do more. To truly make The Barn what it once was, you must teach this generation of basketball fans what The Barn once was. Without that history, you will have nothing to emulate.

Please humbly accept these suggestions:

  • Outreach is key- Give students opportunities to connect with coaches, alumni, and fan favorites. Schedule a weekly lunch with someone connected to The Gophers. Invite Hosea Crittenden to talk about his relationship with the student section, and how he made a three pointer on Hosea Crittenden night. Ask Jim Dutcher to describe the noise in The Barn when 17,000 people were crammed into it. After 50 years, I’m sure Ray Christiensen would have a few stories to tell. Have Tubby Smith talk about the upcoming game. Make attendance free, but only open to those who have a ticket for that week’s game(s).
  • Invite your friends to games and offer to buy them a ticket. You are in college. You undoubtedly spend money on worse things than a great basketball experience. By your friend a ticket. They’ll probably buy you a beer after the game. Everyone will go home happy.
  • Show this generation how The Barn used to be. Reserve a room somewhere on campus, and show a classic Gopher game the night before each home game, and make sure you have the volume on. When the students see and hear how intimidating the barn used to be, they will make it as intimidating as it used to be. Let me know if you want a list of games to show.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel- Don’t spend too much time establishing “official” cheers. This isn’t what made The Barn great. The “Left, Right” cheer is the only one I remember during my 15 years of having season tickets. All the other great moments were related to individuals- yelling at bad shooters to shoot, booing outrageously every time a player who snubbed the U touches the ball, deafening chants of “air ball” 15 minutes after the air ball initially happened, screaming at opposing coaches for any reason you can think of. Traditions happen organically, go with the flow and see what happens.
  • Be as loud, crazy and ridiculous as possible. Even if The Barn isn’t full, act like it is. Make as much noise as possible, make the barn as loud as it can be, regardless if the opponent is UW or UW-River falls. The loudest I have heard the place was during an NIT game when the lower deck was barely full, it can be done.

It has been almost ten years since I had season tickets. Back then, I always wanted to sit in the student section, but was too young. Now, i finally have seats (or a place to stand) in the student section, but it isn’t what it used to be.

Let’s make The Barn one of the great college basketball experiences again.

Let’s restore the roar.

Let’s make it shake.