Trying to do this while doing actual work and watching the game on the TV in our conference room while taking a long lunch. Currently it's 2-0 Minnesota with 18 minutes left in the first half thanks to a strong Al Nolen drive. They really need to keep attacking the zone that way. Other things so far are that Nolen looks really energetic on defense, they already have two or three offensive rebounds, and Westbrook already took the dumbest shot imaginable. Grabbed an o-board, dribbled back about two feet and took a fadeaway 19 footer with about 33 on the shot clock. Awesome. Great decision.
16:50 - Gophers suddenly going back into the "pass it around the perimeter and chuck up a three when the shot clock runs down" mode. That needs to stop immediately.
16:15 - Ralph! He should dominate these slow white clowns. Keep getting it inside, one way or another.
15:24 - First TV timeout. Northwestern 5, Minnesota 4. No work yet accomplished. Gophers gave up a wide open three pointer to Coble after doubling down on some jackass who they don't need to double down on. In general, the offense is looking good, trying to get the ball inside quite a bit, but DJ and Ralph have already been whistled for traveling after getting the ball on the block. Hopefully they stick with the strategy, and the post men decide on a pivot foot.
14:30 - Not entirely sure why the Gophers are playing a 1-3-1 instead of a man-to-man. They are more athletic and should make things difficult with a tough pressure man-to-man like they did against Illinois in that one game where they were good. Luckily, the Wildcats are missing their threes so far, but they are getting open looks.
13:20 - Devron for three to make it 9-8 Minnesota. I really like that kid. I'm going to miss him. I'm guessing a Missouri Valley School.
11:00 - Second timeout, Gophers up 13-8. Tubby switched to a man, once again proving he reads this blog, and Paul Carter got a steal, once again proving I'm a genius. Offense still looking pretty solid, at least in theory, with Bostick scoring in the lane and Iverson scoring on a post-up jump hook. Turnovers are still a problem - Iverson had the ball taken right out of his hands and Bostick lost it in the lane at one point, but they are attacking the zone. Hoff missed a three badly but also had a great play tracking down a loose ball and saving it leading to a Gopher score. This would be an excellent time for him to get hot.
9:06 - Time out Northwestern with the Gophers running it to 18-8. Joseph hits a three off a perfectly executed secondary break by Hoffarber (team's best PG) and Carter, hitting him in the corner for the open three, followed by Iverson with a steal (!?) at the top of Northwestern's offense and taking it all the way in for an awkward dunk. The run is right now at 12-0, the man-to-man is working, and NW looks a little bit panicky. I like this.
7:33 - 22-11 Gophers at the timeout. I'm not sure what team I'm watching here. They are executing transition offense and fast break absolutely beautifully, punctuated by a 2-on-1 give and go by Joseph and Bostick resulting in a Devron jam. Defense looks good as well. Tough, aggressive, and energetic - getting into the passing lanes and generally being disruptive as hell. Interesting to note, this run is happening with Nolen and Westbrook on the bench. Hoff, Devron, Joseph, Carter, and Sampson are looking like a really smooth group right now.
7:22 - Busch is in. Expecting a Wildcat run at any moment. And he's matched up on Coble. That's great.
4:57 - Nolen continues to not know what to do when he gets in the paint, this time picking up his dribble and looking around like he's confused, then getting tied up.
3:39 - God dammit Nolen. Takes a completely idiotic three pointer, misses it, then puts his head down like a freaking school kid who got scolded and lets a Wildcat streak right by him for a layup. And Hoffarber clanks another one. Thank god for my boy Devron, who grabbed two offensive rebounds and ended up putting one of them back for a hoop on the last possession. We're at the four minute timeout, Gophers are still up 29-17 , but I'm thinking we need more Hoff/Joseph than Westbrook/Nolen from here on out.
0:43 - Jesus Christ Westbrook is a damn idiot sometimes. You don't need to go into "F YOU MODE" when you're up 29-22. Forcing the issue and taking every shot has it's place, but this sure as hell isn't it.
0:00 - Halftime, Gophers 31, Northwestern 25 when Coble hits a three at the buzzer. Overall it's been a good effot, with Joseph and Bostick really leading the way. The defense has tailed off a bit, particularly in transition, but the offense seems intent on getting the ball inside off the pass or the dribble, and that needs to continue. Coble has 19 at the half according to the announcers, although it doesn't seem like it. I don't think putting Busch on him is the answer. Also not the answer is Al Nolen. We need to see more Joseph than Nolen, and more Hoffarber than Westbrook.
Second Half (unfortunately my jackass co-workers have joined me in the conference room for lunch - expect updates to be less frequent)
20:00 - Bostick gets the second half start, I like this. And a 3-point play by DJ to get things going.
18:30 - See, right there, perfect Westbrook. Shot clock down to 10, slow white guy on him, takes it at him and hits a pull up 12 footer. Do that. Not the other thing from earlier. Gophers up 36-28.
15:07 - Iverson leads the game with 3 steals. That's weird.
14:08 - DJ squashing Coble, just killing him defensively. Forced Coble to do about 17 moves, and he's no dreamshaker, before he finally hits the side of the backboard with his "jumper."
12:25 - Gophers up 43-37, but this is suddenly beginning to feel a LOT like that last Michigan game.
10:30 - Ok, they're gone. Thank God. Stop asking me inane questions about work crap when I'm trying to watch the Gophers blow the game. Although Westbrook did a great job there with the shot clock winding down taking it at some poor white guy and blowing by him for the layup. He's definitely a weapon, but a dangerous, sometimes uncontrollable weapon. He's like an alligator. Excellent when you need him to kill prowlers, but if you don't keep a tight leash on him he will bite your face off. Foul on Busch (who is back in the game for some reason) trying to guard Coble - and NW is now in the bonus.
9:12 - Gophers suddenly struggling on offense, even with NW back in the same 1-3-1 that Minnesota destroyed earlier in the game, bad enough to get them to get out of it. Now they're confused again, and the Wildcats have cut the lead to four. Seriously, this is JUST LIKE the Michigan game.
8:55 - Seriously, Tubby Smith sucks. They call a timeout with 16 left on the shot clock because the offense isn't working, and they come back out with no play to run. Nothing. They just pass it around the perimeter again, leading to a NW steal and layup to cut the league to 2. How do you not call some kind of play? What the hell did he say during the timeout? Was it just a bunch of "keep your head up", "you guys are good" ra-ra crap? Seriously, how do you not have a play. It's now tied. God damn it.
7:59 - Tie game. Gophers playing tight. This one is probably over. I should just go do work now.
7:31 - Northwestern leads on a miracle swoopy layup thing by Michael Thompson. Unbelievable. Gopher offense tight and has no idea what to do right now. Jesus Christ Tubby, take a timeout, DO SOMETHING.
5:34 - Great defense by Minnesota, ending in DJ forcing Coble into a desperation airball for a shot clock violation. Use this momentum. Get it inside - YES. They find Sampson on the block, scores and the foul. Free throw made, Gophers up by 1 and that's four on Coble. Sampson is an awesome free throw shooter, and not just "for a big man." Keep this momentum going.
4:53 - Never mind, foul on Hoff on the perimeter because he seemingly can't even guard Jeremy Nash who luckily misses both free throws. GET THE BALL INSIDE.
4:25 - Nope, a not open perimeter jumper by Westbrook missed. Not a horrible shot, but not what they needed. Missed shot and an offensive rebound by the Wildcats, then a great block by DJ again. Nolen gets picked, but somehow manages to get a tie-up. Where are Devoe and Devron?
3:49 - 50-49 Gophers. I feel sick. Jim Jackson thinks this is where Westbrook takes over. I can't decide if that's good or bad.
3:01 - 52-49 after Westy hits his little pull up floater thing. Northwestern takes a timeout - what do you want to bet they have an actual play they're going to run here?
2:42 - Ok, they did have a play, but it was a backdoor lob to Nash? What the hell? I think I would have rather run no play. I guess Tubby wins that one.
2:10 - Two Westy free throws and it's 54-49. My relationship with Westbrook could be described as "tumultuous" and that would be an understatement. I think we're like Chris Brown and Rihanna.
1:11 - Sampson with a dunk, Northwestern with a miss, and now we are in foul mode for the Wildcats. I'm not quite ready to relax, but it's now a 8 point lead.
0:50 - Ten point lead. I am now relaxed.
FINAL - 66-53
Whew. I think that will likely lock up a spot in the tournament for the Gophers. Assuming they don't beat Michigan State, I would put their chances now at about 90%. I wouldn't be shocked if they don't get in, but I would be pretty surprised.
Excellent job locking down the defense when they did, holding Northwestern scoreless for something like the final six minutes of the game (other than the final thirty seconds), and great job by DJ of completely shutting down Coble in the second half. It got a little dicey there, and I said some things I probably didn't mean (sorry Tubby, I love you), but I damn near had a heart attack so I can't be held responsible. Let's just not embarrass ourselves tomorrow.