Friday, February 1, 2008

L-Dub 4 Eva

Excellent win for the Gophers last night, knocking off Michigan in Ann Arbor 77-65, in a game that wasn't that close. The Gophers came out intense and ready to play, took control early, and never let up (except for the last 3 minutes, when it was already too late for the Wolverines).

As PJS reported and From the Barn predicted, Tubby shortened the bench, going with basically a six man rotation. Shamala (6 min), Williams (6), and Busch (4) saw limited time, Payton never got off the bench, and most surprisingly, Hoffbauer only played two minutes - although he did manage to turn it over. I like this idea, because the other six guys are clearly the most talented right now. This won't work every game, particularly against teams like Wisconsin with more size where Williams will be needed, but it is an excellent strategy when it can be used. I wouldn't mind finding more time for Hoffarber's offense, but his defense is so suspect right now (worse than Shamala?) that it's hard to find a place for him sometimes.

Once again, very impressed with the defense. Tubby has really changed this teams mentality, and they don't just play defense, they attack with it. Michigan only had 16 turnovers, but it felt like a lot more. At least two or three of those were straight picks of a Michigan guard while he was dribbling, leading to easy baskets. Also held the Wolverines to 39% shooting and 24% from three. I can't get over the change to this part of the team.

I'm going to break this down player by player, with apologies to From the Barn:

Dan Coleman: Actually finally asserted himself. Scoring with his back to the basket and driving into the lane, was legitimately difficult to stop. Ended up with 17 points (7-15) and 11 rebounds, and this game you knew he had good numbers, and knew he was there. Had some trouble with his hands, as at least three passes went through them and out of bounds for turnovers, but overall one of his best games of the year. I would love to see him continue like this and play this way against a top tier team, say, like, Wisconsin on Sunday. We also learned that Tubby compares him to Tayshaun Prince. Not sure I agree, but ok.

Spencer Tollackson: Scored a couple of buckets early to really set the tone. Had no problems with Udoh on either end. Is really solid when he's not the focal point of the offense, which he wasn't last night. When he has limited touches and is more of a garbage guy, he can thrive like he did last night (14 points on 6-8 shooting). Really like his new free throw style - get the ball, bend kness, shoot. No messing around with dribbling or anything, he was 2-3 yesterday and the ball looks a lot better coming off his hands. Also managed five steals, as Michigan wasn't strong with the ball.

Damian Johnson: Continues to impress with his defense, and is starting to add a little more offense to his game here and there. Clearly the best athlete on the team, had a very nice tip dunk in the first half, as well as a blocked shot and a steal. If he continues to play defense and rebound like he is, and just adds little pieces on the offensive end without doing too much, he's going to end up having a very good career.

Lawrence McKenzie: Eighteen second half points after zero in the first half. Really exploded and showed what he's capable of, seeming to remember that he is a scorer. Once he really got going he did try to do a little too much here and there, as evidenced by his five turnovers, but this is the McKenzie the Gophers need if they're going to do any damage in the Big Ten. Hit a turnaround three with the shot clock expiring that really seemed to ignite him and remind him of what he's capable of. Played excellent defense all game, and ran the point well without being passive. Probably his best overall game of the year. Hopefully this McKenzie stays, and both the passive one and the reckless one stay away.

Lawrence Westbrook: Without question my new favorite Gopher. Had a season high 15 points last night, both from the perimeter and driving to the lane, where he is undersized but fearless. The most impressive part of last night was his defense. He was all over the Wolverines leading scorer Manny Harris the entire game, harrassing him into bad shots and turnovers all night. But wait, WWWWWWW, sure Harris had 5 turnovers, but he scored 19 points, how good a job could L-Dub have done? Well, Harris scored 2 of his points against Westbrook. That's right, 2. He hit a three against McKenzie and had five against Nolen. He hit a three on the break, two fast break dunks and two free throws after a foul on the break. That's 17. He had two against Westbrook, and those were both free throws. He was something like 0-5 against Westbrook with 2 points and four turnovers. Just a tremendous job by L-Dub. Hopefully Tubby will put him on Hughes against the evil Badgers.

Al Nolen: Played only 13 minutes, the fewest this season, as this was pretty much a five man team last night. Seemed to struggle a bit against the pressure D once the Wolverines put it on. Still very impressed with him as a freshman point guard, but he does have a ways to go. Still have faith in him for next year.

Tubby Smith: Between the shortened bench, attacking defense, constant switching of defenses, and in the game coaching he earned his 400th victory. Mid-way through the second half, Michigan switched to a full court trap. As soon as he saw it, before the guards even got into a trap, he called a timeout to talk it over. That alone tells me how much better he is than Monson. Congrats on the 400th Tubby!

Overall, a very good win. They should have won the game, and they needed to win the game, but to do it in such a convincing fashion speaks volumes. Small concern about the way they panicked in the last three minutes or so and coughed up about 10 points, but I'll chalk it up to an understandable loss of focus with a twenty point lead. I'm sure Tubby will take that up the team in practice. Additionally, 11-19 is not good enough when it comes to the free throws. It didn't kill them this time, but it has before and will again if they don't fix it.

Back to the Barn, and a huge game against Wisconsin. The Gophers have five "should wins" left (@ Northwestern, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Penn State). If they manage to win all of those, that is 8 wins. I'll go ahead and call @ Wisconsin and @ Indiana as losses. That would put the Gophers at 8-6. Leaving Wisconsin, Ohio State, @ Purdue, and @ Illinois. Winning two of those four puts them at 10-8, 20-10 overall. Probably in the bubble conversation, needed a bit of a run in the Big Ten tournament. Winning three puts them in a different, much better place. It will be very hard to win at both Illinois and Purdue, so these home games are crucial. Additionally, it would be nice to get a signature win to go along with the victory at Iowa State. I'm still believing a NCAA tournament bid is possible, but without a win this Sunday, it's going to be extremely difficult.


Dawg said...

Nice breakdown WWWW. I had to listed to Da Lynch Mob break it down for me on WCCO last night. Gophers continue to win games that they are suppose to win.

I did happen to watch Sconi manhandle Indiana last night, and it was very depressing. Until watching that game I still had a firm belief that this was our year to kick Bucky in the balls (at least once). Well, I was way wrong. I hope they at least have the decency to spit on "it" before they rape us this Sunday at home.

I have to say that L-Dub is the worst nickname of all-time. Its so much worse then JAS. JAS's real name is way to freaking long and JAS is the easiest way to say it. Plus I refuse to call a white guy Jamal. Its like having a terroist named Jim or Mike.

WWWWWW said...

I didn't make up L-Dub. It's what he calls himself.

Also, they guy who bombed the Oklahoma City building was named Tim.

snacks said...

do you realize you said that we caused "only" 16 turnovers? that's how far they have come this year because that is still a pretty solid number

WWWWWW said...

That same thought occurred to me as I was typing it. And then I laughed a little. It's very nice to be a middle of the pack Big Ten team again, with hopefully better things to come.

dawg said...

Tim was a misfit that got picked on too much in high school by guys like The Bear.

Maybe L-Dub just sounds so stupid because you found it when you were cyber stalking him on myspace.

Whats your take on the game this Sunday?

WWWWWW said...

There will be a preview, likely tomorrow.

You'll have to be patient until then.

From the Barn said...

I realize your thing is to put up pictures of scantily clad 21 year olds. Well, maybe this will work for the sconnies.

WWWWWW said...