January 12, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Penn State

Minnesota - 76
Penn State - 73

Well Gopher Nation, you are welcome. I was wearing a T-shirt during the 1st half, I then went to shower and came back for the 2nd half in a different t-shirt. The 2nd shirt obviously was NOT the right one, so once we got down by 16 I promptly switched back and you know the rest. You are welcome.

There are a ton of things to be excited about watching this game. The way they remained composed down 16 on the road is the most impressive to this blogger. Tollackson's efficiency and dominance in the paint, Nolen's saviness on defense and of course Hoffarber's incredibly hot shooting.

Through most of the first half the Gophers were following GopherNation's game plan exactly as it was laid out for them. Claxton was scoring at will and dominating while the rest of his team was rather silent. Then all hell broke loose as Morrissey and Battle both started scoring with very little resistance by the gopher defense. Those two combined for 35 points (32 in the last 30 min of the game) and nearly beat us with their hot shooting.

Minnesota scored early in the 2nd half but then let PSU go on a 17-2 run and take a 16 point lead. In that run we had 3 missed three's and 2 turnovers while it covered 5:20 off the clock. That's when the freshmen guards took over. Here is what I calculate their stats in the last 13:00 of the game...

Hoffarber - 14 pts on 4/6 from behind the arc
Nolen - 4 assists, 1 reb and 1 steal leading to free throws that iced the game.

Those two were a nice tandem down the stretch and keyed this win when McKenzie sat with fouls and Coleman wasn't much of a factor.

Overall, this was a fun game to watch. Penn State has some athletes. I'm sure they'd love to have a couple big guys like Tollackson or Coleman to go with their bulky and athletic forwards. And I know we could use a big strong kid to attack the glass like Cornley or of course Claxton.

Game Ball - Tollackson

19 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast

I know this should probably go to Hoffarber, but I would argue that Tollackson was the reason the outside shots opened up like they did. Remember that early we were 1/7 from behind the arc and our only scoring option was the steady Tollackson. His 11 2nd half points were just as important as Hoffarber's 14.

Tempo Free Zone

Obvious to anyone who watched, but Penn State killed us on the offensive glass. On the season they have only been rebounding 19% of their own misses. This afternoon they got the ball back on 38.2% of their misses. That nearly killed us, if you watch their last two possessions they had an extra opportunity to score with offensive rebounds.

The stat for the Gophers is that we turned them over on nearly 25% of their possessions. So a quarter of the time we stole the ball or they gave us the ball without a shot. We have been great at this all season and tonight was no different.

Up Next

The tough schedule continues with three very tough games in the next 10 days. We get arguably the two best teams in the conference coming here (Indiana, Michigan State) then we travel to Ohio State. Chances are pretty good that we lose those and move on with a 2-4 record. That doesn't sound great but the rest of the schedule is full of winable games and we should be able to get back to .500 rather quick with Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa and Illinois 4 of the next 5 games.

But if we can steal just one of the next three this team will start to look like an upper level team in the Big Ten and one who wants to play into March. That is my battle cry over the next 10 days...


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