So Minnesota's a pretty good team, huh? They sure were on Wednesday night, anyway. While things certainly seemed to be in our favor early when Brandon Paul was using Trevor Mbakwe as a launchpad, things went downhill from there.
Brandon Paul threw down the first dunk and Minnesota threw down the next 50.
There are a myriad of reasons you can say we lost this game. The one factor most people will look to right away will be our three-point shooting. The Illini shot only 12.5% from deep, making 3 of their 22 attempts. We're not going to win playing like that.
However, we aren't going to win if we don't bother playing transition defense, either, and we weren't playing much of that tonight either. Time after time Minnesota would get a rebound off a missed jump shot from the Illini and then one or two passes later there'd be a Gopher behind the defense in transition for an easy dunk.
There's a reason that Minnesota's starters shot 57.4% from the floor tonight, and it's because dunks and layups are high percentage shots. Of course, the Gophers also shot 60% from three, so it was working from all areas tonight.
It's the fact that we made it so easy for Minnesota to score against us that it didn't matter that they only had 7 offensive rebounds or that they turned the ball over more than twice as many times as we did. They could have turned it over three times as often, it wouldn't have mattered.
We played defense in spurts, and used it to get ourselves back in the game a few times, but defense in spurts isn't enough against a team this strong.
And defense, more than our three-point shooting, will likely have a much bigger role in how we finish this season.
-- Brandon Paul finished with 21 points and D.J. Richardson had 14, but those two combined with Joseph Bertrand combined to make 13 of their 41 shots tonight. That's a whole lot of empty shots. If not for Brandon Paul's 8 free throws this game would have been a lot uglier.
-- Tracy Abrams continues to be our lone aggressor on offense. You would think it would be our seniors who know that when the jumpers aren't falling you need to attack the rim, but that's not the case. It's the sophomore point guard that we all questioned before the season started. He got in foul trouble tonight, and again we were reminded how much worse this team is when he's on the bench.
-- Nnanna Egwu didn't have a bad game. He finished the night with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. It was particularly nice to see him have a big game on the glass. However, while he had a good night, I can't pretend he wasn't part of the reason Trevor Mbakwe had 19 and 11 either.
-- Can we stop letting guys have career nights against us? First it was Terone Johnson scoring 25 points for Purdue last week, and tonight it was Joe Coleman with a career-high 29. And a lot of those 29 points were the easiest points of his life.