Blah blah balh let's just get to the 10 things I liked and mostly didn't like.
1. First off, as most triple overtimes games are this one was heart breaking. The bad part is it wasn't heart breaking in a "they battled their asses off just couldn't get the win" way or a "man they really did everything they could it just wasn't enough" way. It was heart breaking in a "Purdue did everything they could to not win and they're really terrible and the Gophers are just more terrible" way. The worst part is that at no time from the last five minutes through the three overtimes did I expect the Gophers to win. We've been conditioned to expect terrible Februaries, and it's looking like the team has been as well. I hoped that would all change with the new coach, and hopefully it still will. Just maybe not this year.
2. Rebounding. God damn rebounding. It's going to be
everyone's point about this game and you know how the public is
generally wrong about everything? Well they're right this time and god
dammit. Purdue grabbed 23 offensive rebounds, which means they got the
ball back on 46% of their missed shots - that's a ridiculous number.
Lest you think we can just pin this on the big men, Ronnie and Terone
Johnson combined for 8 offensive boards on their own, which tells me the
guards for the Gophers aren't doing any work when the ball goes up. We
know the Gophers have rebounding issues, and we know Purdue is a great
offensive rebounding team (moved from #2 in the Big 10 to #1 after last
night) but god that was just disgusting to watch.
3. The zone defense was just swiss cheese. Nothing but holes, baby. The hope was to pack in the zone and let Purdue throw up brick after brick from the outside, but they played smart last night. The Gopher zone was a little more extended than I would have liked, and it left the middle wide open time after time after time. After some initial struggles, probably because they were confused that they kept getting the ball with nobody on them in a strong position, Sterling Carter and Terone Johnson played the zone like a fiddle, scoring when it was available and finding and open teammate when it wasn't. It was basically a clinic on how to score against a zone when you're terrible.
4. Of course the switch to man didn't go much better. Then it just became Ronnie Johnson penetrating off a screen and finding an open teammate, or if not him then Carter. The Gopher interior defense kept having to help, and the secondary help was never there in time. Make no mistake, this game was there for the taking. Purdue refused to make free throws and turned the ball over 15 times, just begging the Gophers to win and put them out of their misery. When you can't play zone, and you can't play man, well, I don't really think there's a third thing.
5. I'm starting to run out of good things to say about Mo Walker. On the offensive end, at least. When he was big and fat he showed flashes of good footwork and passing ability, and now that he's in better shape he's putting those skills to good use and showing a lot of confidence. His post up game has changed from just trying to bull people over to actually using moves and some quickness. At least twice he took it at Hammons and actually used his footwork to get a good shot instead of throwing it directly into his arms like he would have done in the past. He's making free throws and even hit a nice 17 foot jumper Purdue dared him to take. He's coming into his own, and it's fantastic to watch.
6. I'm starting to worry about Dre Mathieu just a little bit. Look, I love the Honey Gopher and I love how he plays. I said earlier this season that I like my point guard to be just a little bit out of control, and that's how Mathieu played for much of this season, but I'm now worrying he's crossed over and gone too far out of control. After playing a great game against Wisconsin he's now had three subpar games in a row, averaging 4 assists and over 6 turnovers per. In the team's first 15 games he had more TOs than assists just once, since then they've played 8 games and he's done it four times. I will grant the level of competition has increased, but he doesn't seemed to have adjusted.
7. I said it would be important for one of the "power forwards" to step up offensively and Joey King did.
Fourteen points and nine rebounds is a really nice line from him, and
he actually scored in a post a few times without looking like a baby
deer trying to walk. It's rather stunning to see he played 47 minutes
last night to just 8 for Oto. I think it's clear Pitino really prefers
King to Oto, and if he's played well he's going to see the bulk of the
minutes. Maybe this was King's breakout game. Of course his defense
was still terrible and he constantly got lost on picks. The next time I
see King successfully navigate multiple picks and end up in good
defensive position on his man will be the first time.
8. I have no idea why they didn't call a timeout at the end of the second overtime (I think).
It was their first chance to really win the game, and I get not calling
a TO right away and trusting your players but it wasn't working.
Mathieu was trying to work a pick and roll with Mo Walker and he just
couldn't get the penetration and kept having to reset. At that point
you need to call a timeout and run a designed play, because I know the
Gophers this year have plenty of them designed to get a shot. Instead
they got nothing but a Dre Hollins contested fade away from 17 feet. I
even double and triple checked and yep, they still had a timeout
available. Zero idea why Pitino didn't call one there when it was clear
that "letting them play" wasn't going anywhere.
9. Shon Morris is absolutely terrible. Most announcers aren't very good but are pretty easy to tune out, but Morris somehow blasts through your ear hole and into your brain like some sort of miniature super villain. He seems to feel the need to make some sort of analysis on every single play, and most of the time he's either making shit up or just flat wrong. If Dre Hollins throws the pass over Austin Hollins' head and out of bounds, I don't need some in depth analysis about why he threw a shitty pass unless there's actually a reason. Sometimes it's just a shitty pass. He's just horrible. Of course, he gets stuck doing games like Minnesota vs. Purdue, so maybe the Gophers should just be more better.
10. Indiana is now a must win game. The Gophers are now 4-6 in conference, and in order to feel safe and make their Big Ten Tournament results mostly irrelevant they'll need to get to 9-9, which means closing out at 5-3. With only four games they "should" win left (home vs. Indiana, Illinois, and Penn State and @Northwestern which I'm still counting as a "should win") that means they've really put themselves in a terrible place. If they can win those four they still need to steal one out of the @Wisconsin, @Ohio State, @Michigan, and home vs. Iowa group. Yes, that's doable, but if they drop any of the "should win" games they'll have to get two of those others, and I don't see that happening. I was starting to think this would be the year I'd finally get to see the Gophers in the "lock" category in a bubble watch column. Not looking that way, once again.
I might put up a preview of the Indiana game but if not in a nutshell I have no idea how they're going to keep Yogi Ferrell out of the lane and I'm pretty sure Indiana has a good chance to score 100.