Good win, and on to Madison Square Garden. Here are 10 things I liked and didn't like about the Southern Miss game. And it's going to be fast, because I have some sweet 16 stuff I need to ignore my real work for tomorrow.
1. Obviously the A topic here is Austin Hollins's monster game. 32 points. 6-11 from 3. 2-3 from 2. 11-11 from the line. 4 assists and 3 steals with no turnovers to boot. Plus he was as active as I can ever remember seeing him, just running all over the court especially without the ball which is a place he can disengage from a game from time to time. Great going away game from Austin in his final game at the Barn and I'm glad he got to have a huge moment in front of the home crowd after he's been beaten up pretty hard by a certain segment of fans (*cough* gopherhole). A good well rounded player who cares as much about defense as offense is always a nice luxury to have and although I wouldn't call him a Gopher legend (he's no Stan Gaines) he will be sorely missed next season. I'd slot him somewhere below Damian Johnson and above Travarus Bennett. Pretty good spot to be in.
2. The other A topic should be the freaking horrible announcers and actually all around production by ESPN. Good lord are Dan Dakitch and whoever the other guy was terrible. How many times did they get Austin and Andre Hollins confused? And every time the Gophers had the ball all they could talk about was how the Gophers needed to get Austin the ball, even though I'm positive they meant Andre because they had no idea he wasn't 100% because I don't think - no, I know - neither of them has seen a Gopher game this year. Then what happens? The show a graphic to show Austin's great stats and the picture is Andre. Good lord we could have expected this in year 1 with both of them, but it's year 3. I was surprised, however, they never mentioned that they are brothers. Odd.
3. Great job handling pressure......until the last two minutes. The Gophers turned the ball over 10 times which for them I would consider good. But two of the ten came in the last two minutes and it felt like a lot more because the Gophers suddenly seemed all panicky. Southern Miss is a big time turnover creating team, which makes the overall numbers very impressive. I said they'd have to take care of the ball to win and they did. If they had played like this more often, well, we probably wouldn't have any more Gopher ball to watch, but we'd all be a lot happier with the season.
4. Someone in the middle of the zone - unstoppable. Against that matchup zone, and really any zone, is getting someone in the middle of the zone, right about the free throw line, and getting them the ball. Tonight it was usually either Joey King (more on him later) or Elliot Eliason there - when someone was there - and almost every time they got the ball either King hit a jumper or King or Eliason were able to find an open shooter, and the team was actually hitting open shots tonight so everybody was all smiling and stuff. Sadly, far too often nobody bothered to get in the middle, which is like why not? I would love to have some kind of breakdown of points per possession when they got a touch in the middle vs. not. One led to easy shots, the other a ton, and a mean a ton, of contested long jumpers and three pointers. Just some terrible shots tonight. Some great offense too. Schizo team, as usual.
5. The rebounding and defense kind of sucked. A 14-4 edge on the offensive rebounds is not very good, and letting Southern Miss shoot over 50% on twos is not ideal. No reason to harp on this, because it's been a season long theme, luckily tonight their offense was good enough to overcome it. Moving on.
6. This Mavsurgence is not real. Mav has made some headlines after scoring 21 in the first round game against High Point, but that was High Point. Since then he's come back to normal but is at least hitting his shots which is really his only role or should be. Tonight he had a possession where he basically like, kicked the ball away from himself and then fell down. It felt like a metaphor for something, but I'm not sure what.
7. Joey King is good? Seriously, is he? I hated him at first, he slowly won me over, but after scoring 15 points tonight that makes four straight games in double figures, which I'm told is the first time he's done that in his career, I'm wondering if he's actually good. Like, starting Big 10 caliber good? He looked awfully good as the middle guy against the zone, he's started to get better from three without relying on it, he's gone from zero post moves to something like 0.8 post moves, and just, stopped being such a tit. I can't believe I might be a fan. Not what I was expecting.
8. Dre Hollins is still broken. He's shooting like shit, yes at 6-38 in his last four games (not a misprint) but other than a down tick because he can't get to the rim as easily as he used to that's not what I'm talking about. There were two plays tonight that made it crystal clear he doesn't have the burst he did before he hurt his ankle. One was a run out where he had one of those one on two breaks but the two are out of position so you generally take it right at the rim and he tried but was turned back because he was too slow and the other was a trap towards the end of the game that he usually would be able to dribble out of with his quickness but was unable to. It makes this win (and the last one) even more impressive by the Gophers doing it with a best player who is max at 90% of his capability. Hopefully he's all back next year.
9. I am far too excited about Mo Walker next year. I can't get over about how good he's been since his breakout against Ohio State. He's learned to trust his body and can just bull his way into lay-ups, even against good defenders. He's got a semi decent jumper out to about 16 feet, and he can pass the ball very well for a man his size. If he adds 1-2 post moves other than his jump hook and the drop step lower your shoulder he could end up nearly unstoppable. Generally I don't trust college kids to work all that hard because I remember being a college kid, but this is a guy who lost 60 pounds or whatever, I can see him busting his ass to add a dream shake and a fall away or something. So excited. Unreasonably so.
10. Why not win it I guess. The NIT mostly sucks. It's hard to care about, you play mediocre teams who you have no idea whether they're at all interested, and many of the games run up against NCAA games and as such go unwatched. But hell, as long as you're stuck in it you might as well win it, right? And wins over St. Mary's and Southern Miss are nice wins you can build on? I don't know. The Gophers are still playing, and god help me I'm still watching. Let's hope they win two more.