Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Game Recap: Minnesota 67, Indiana 63

Reading through the comments on the gopherhole and star tribune's website, it seemed the majority of fans thought the loss of Devoe Joseph, confirmed to be leaving the program, wasn't that big a deal, no big loss, and that the team might even be better off without him.  I hope tonight's game showed everyone how ludicrous that line of thinking is, because he was desperately needed tonight.

Sure, when the offense is running smoothly, and the set plays and motion are working, he can be a bit of a ballstop, and he's never going to win any defensive awards, this is all true.  But when the opposing defense packs into a tight zone, daring you to shoot because you only have one reliable shooter, you need a guy like Devoe.  When you want to run a deep bench, but your second line of guards is made up of three freshman, you need a guy like Devoe.  And most importantly, when the plays aren't working, and nobody can get open, you need somebody who can get their own shot, and now the Gophers have as many players capable of that as I have here on my couch.  Blake Hoffarber can shoot, but he doesn't have the athleticism to shake a defender one on one.  Rodney Williams is athletic as hell (how awesome was that dunk in the second half by the way) but doesn't have the ball skills to get free, and Al Nolen isn't a good enough shooter.  In short, this teams needs Devoe.

But whats done is done, and whats gone is gone.  I'll hold any further Devoe thoughts for if/when more information is known, however, because despite this ugly, ugly win there is one guy who deserves an amazing amount of credit for his performance tonight, and that is the often maligned Al Nolen.  Not to take anything away from Trevor Mbakwe, whose 11 pt, 16 rebound, 5 block night was the best statline, and who had several blocks that should end up on Sportscenter as well as playing great defense in holding Christian Watford to just four points, but this was Al's night.

His line is good:  14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals with 2 turnovers (and those both game in first few minutes), but he was much more than that tonight.  He was leader this team needs, the leader a senior point guard can be, and his effort and play in the second made me fall in love with him, and I've been huge Nolen detractor in the past.

You can never fault his effort or his defense, and those were full on display again tonight, as he pestered Verdell Jones from end to end, harassing him into several turnovers and generally taking him off his game, but that's not what really set him apart this evening.  What he did was take his two biggest weaknesses - shooting, and driving into the lane without a plan - and turned them into strengths. 

He was just 1-2 from three, and he still (thankfully) doesn't look for that shot often because he knows it's not something he excels at, but the one he did hit was huge.  It gave the Gophers a 46-44 lead, and came right after Indiana had retaken the lead and stemmed some of the Gophers momentum.  His miss was a very good shot, just a little strong and off the back iron, but more than anything, his reaction showed he was confident and it was going in, and so was I.  As long as he has the confidence to shoot when open he can help keep defenses more honest, and he'll make enough of them where he isn't a liability.

The most impressive part of night, however, was his ability to score in the lane.  He's never been able to not get to the lane because he is so quick, but tonight, rather than looking like he wasn't sure what he was going to do with the ball when he got there, he attacked the basket.  He even had a move at one point that looked suspiciously like Dr. J's rock the baby move, and was far more successful than the Dream Shake Jeremiah Rivers tried at one point (which missed).  He'll never be a great shooter or a great scorer, but he completely controlled the game on the offensive end despite taking just 8 shots and, as per usual, controlled the game on the defensive end as well.

So was it an ugly win?  Yes.  Should we be happy with it overall?  Probably not, but a win is a win, they needed this one, and they got it.  More importantly, we may have seen a new Al Nolen, one whose sudden improvement rivals what happened to Eric Harris from his junior to his senior year.  It remains to be seen if this new style of play will keep up or was just a blip, but, if you couldn't tell, I'm thrilled.  Keep it up, Al.  Keep it up.


Shina Willson said...

very informative and interesting blog.
Thanks for sharing:-)

rghrbek said...


You are right on Joseph, completely right.
However, on Nolan, well first of off, your a poof for being in love with him. 2ndly, we've seen spurts of this from him before (against Louisville, North Carolina ect...), and would've have seen it more last year, except Al decided that school work was not important.

Al can be very good, but he also can be pretty bad. He was pretty bad in that first half. He was the mvp in the 2nd half without a doubt.

Your boy Ralphie, cause that is how we should refer to him, is mostly a waste of space out there. We can never expect big things from him, unless we are playing Sienna.

Casey said...

Why do so many Gopher "fans" (that term is relative) spell Nolen this way: N O L A N? He's from Minneapolis Henry and he's been a four year starter for the Gophers. I can understand misspelling Ernest Nzigamasabo.

Ralph(y) said...

Casey- Find bigger things in life to worry about. Also, you should realize the Rghrbek is a complete Re-tard and a waste of space.

Casey said...

I'm reading a blog about Gopher basketball (and so are you by the way) and I'm supposed to "find bigger things in life to worry about". I think I've already failed in my attempt to find "bigger things" if I'm on this website to begin with.

Dawg said...

Agreed, the self proclaimed know-it-all should be able to spell Nolen correctly. I move to ban Rg from this blog permanently. Maybe that kind of sloppy commenting is acceptable over at Hrbek's true love (TDG) but not on a well respected blog such as this. Be GONE!

SSF said...

I agree with Casey when he says that we basically all suck at life because we read your blog WWWW. Now people that read Diary of a Sioux fan...are even bigger losers.

Ralph(y) said...

SSF, You are mistaken......again. The only loser is the person that actually writes Diary of a Sioux Fan.

I think the majority agree, rghrbek is a cheater (TDG) and a buffoon. He needs to be punished if he continues in his ways. RG, you suck at life and at blogging. Thats not a good combination. Please change, we are watching you.

rghrbek said...

Love the savagery, it's just like being married!

Wish I was the dude from TDG, but afraid i'm not. Keep it up!

You guys complete me

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it was Nick's Twins Blog that Rg was cheating on WWW with?

browneye said...

If you don't like SSF/Mama Dawger then you can just...get out.