South Dakota State - 72
Minnesota - 78
So, I suck at previews. I thought the NDSU game would be close and I thought the SDSU game would be a blowout. When all is said and done I still firmly believe that NDSU is the superior team, but for some reason the gophers had no trouble with the Bison and struggled on both ends against the Jackrabbits.
Game Ball - Garrett Callahan (SDSU)
Dan Coleman would have been my gopher choice with Damian Johnson a close 2nd. Dan followed up a dominant 1st half (16 pts) with an average 2nd (8 pts). But you can't give out a game ball in this game without giving it to Callahan. The kid was savvy, shot 61% and scored 28 points while playing 39 minutes. Also worth mentioning is that he had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 2 turnovers in 39 minutes. That is a decent night for the sophomore guard. Down With Goldy accurately points out that the only time he was slowed was when Nolen guarded him for the last 5 min of the game. Nolen created back to back turnovers which led to zero points, but it set the defensive tone for the gophers as the finished out the game.
Tempo Free Zone
The stat that jumps out at me here is that fact that SDSU nabbed 51.4% of their missed shots. You, me and every other non-comcast subscriber who watched the game knew we didn't rebound very well, but you can't let the other team have the ball back on over 1/2 of their missed shots. We actually had been rebounding fairly well this year allowing teams offensive rebounds at about a 30% clip until last night. That just can't happen in Big Ten play or we will get killed.
We were killed on the boards and didn't play great team defense but really the gophers did the rest necessary to win the game.
- We had our lowest turnover% of the young season - 15.8% of possessions ended in a turnover
- We shot a season high 61.5% of effective FG% (SDSU - 49.2%)
- While our offense wasn't pretty we still scored 1.23 points per possession.
- We had our 2nd highest free throw proficiency of the young season
X-Factor - Al Nolen
As I mentioned above, Nolen was the spark that carried us into the last 5 min of the game. He forced back to back turnovers as the jackrabbits were trying to force the ball to Callahan, he also handled the ball handling duties when SDSU turned up the pressure and he nailed 3/4 free throws to ice the game in the last 30 seconds.
I wish more than anything that Nolen were the starting PG but as PJS points out it is most important that he is the one finishing the games at the point.
What does this mean?
This is a long season. You can't get too high about wins in Nov/Dec and you can't get too carried away by a close win over a inferior team. In the long run this game will hopefully serve as a wakeup call that they can't coast at any point, they just aren't good enough to do so. I have no doubt that 1 year ago we would have lost this game, so stay encouraged that this team is headed in a better direction (duh, right?).
What I hope this game does is shake up the rotation a little bit. Tubby has been quoted as saying he doesn't want to change the starting lineup now that his team is on a roll and winning. Maybe this game will serve as a catalyst to change the starting lineup and get rotation ironed out before the Big Ten season. The 5 guys that finished the game should absolutely be the 5 that start for the rest of this season.
PG - Nolen
SG - McKenzie
SF - Johnson
PF - Coleman
C - Tollackson
1st off the bench - Hoffarber
2nd - Williams
Next - Westbrook/Abu-Shamala
This does so much for the lineup. Most importantly it lets McKenzie move back into scorers roll. He isn't made to play point, he is made to score. Nolen is a point guard first and will run the offense better than McKenzie anyway. Thus far we haven't seen McKenzie get to carry the scoring load, but he is capable and will open things up for the big men if we is allowed to score more.
The only problem with this lineup is you don't have as much punch coming off the bench. You lose the spark that Johnson provides when your starters sit and you lose that true point guard in Nolen. Your next group is 3 scoring guards and a big man who can't score (and Payton, but don't get me started).
Worst case scenario the lineup stays the game and the gophers continue to get better as is. Best case this game jolts them into working harder and realizing they still have a long ways to go.
There has never been any doubt that this team needs to get better. For all of them they are being pushed to improve like never before, they are being asked to give defensive effort like never before and they are learning how to play together in a new offense. Games against teams like SDSU are actually important for the 2007-08 gophers. They need as much time as possible to get things figured out so they can play their best basketball in January and February.