March 14, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Indiana (B10 Tourney)

Minnesota - 59
Indiana -58

This would be worth watching for Gopher fans...

What is lost in the big Hoffarber buzzer beater is the overall Gopher effort. Without question Indiana is more talented and started the game flat and uninterested. After the 8-min timeout in the first half they flipped their switch and made a nice 11-2 run to cut the lead back to a manageable four point game with 24 minutes left. But Minnesota didn't back down, they actually extended the lead to seven as they hit half-time.

Then IU started the second half with their switch flipped and they clamped down not allowing Minnesota a point for the first 5:30 while DJ White was scoring all of their points and looked poised to single handily send the Gophers home.

But once again this team didn't back down and actually held the lead for all but 1.5 seconds of the last 5:10. Then predictably this team that isn't used to winning big games gave it away by Coleman going soft to the hoop, silly fouls and not boxing out (twice). But amazingly Hoffarber gave us his left handed impression of Christian Laettner and we live to finally take out the Illini.

Player of the Game - Damien Johnson
17 points
4 offensive rebounds
1 block
1 steal

Hoffarber's shot will get all of the press but Johnson was outstanding tonight. With a thin frontcourt and Coleman in foul trouble he kept things from getting ugly inside. Big Jon Williams had what may have been his best game as a Gopher but Johnson was the key to the win tonight.

Tempo Free Zone

For as bad as the rebounding appeared while watching the game, we actually out rebounded Indiana. We boxed out well enough to get 63.4% of their misses and we got back 43.2% of our own misses. That's not our worst rebounding effort of the year.

I do miss the old days of forcing turnovers. Remember when we used to press on most made baskets? And remember when we'd turn teams over on 23% (or more) of their possessions? I'm not sure why we abandoned the press but I for one miss it. Forcing Indiana to turn the ball over on only 11% of their possessions is not going to be good enough tomorrow.

Up Next - Illinois

Another chance to avenge an 0-2 Big Ten record. Screw that, can we PLEASE not make it 20 straight losses to Illinois? Two things have killed us vs. the Illini. Rebounding and three point shooting.

Illinois during the Big Ten Season shot 32% from behind the arc in their other 16 conference games. Against Minnesota they shot 53.6%. That is an alarming stat. They shot over 50% only three times all season (conference games only) and two of those were of course the Gopher games.

I know that rebounding is going to be the most talked about key for the Gophers but I put that as #2 behind keeping their 3-pnt FG% to something under 40%.

Does anybody else wonder if we'll be better off with Williams starting and Tollackson sits? Let us remember that he hath given us 5 rebounds vs. Illinois (that is combined folks)! Williams won't score but maybe he'd be willing to box out and give us 6 total boards. And most importantly maybe he'd be able to keep Pruitt or Randle from getting a couple extra offensive boards.

The Illini are beatable and fortunately they won't have the 'one fewer game played advantage', they were a Thursday team just like us.

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