Updated: 05/06/2014 1:47 PM KSTP.com By: Hannah Anderson
The two biggest elements in a basketball game that can spell doom for a team are hot shooting by the opposition and officiating. For a team to overcome such obstacles and win such a game typically requires great coaching. Both of these elements played a key role in Minnesota’s 88 to 81 loss to the Hoosiers in Indiana on Saturday.
The first half of the game couldn't have been any uglier for the Gophers. It highlighted
Tubby's allowing the Hoosiers to gain a full head of steam by letting the Gopher starters languish on the bench way too long in favor of substitute players that were clearly unable to keep up with Indiana’s thoroughbreds. Not only the bench players but the starters as well, demonstrated a dreadful lack of hustle on defense and transition. The Gophers had 12 turnovers resulting in 19 Hoosier points while Indiana shot 66% from the floor - 64 % from three point range. All things considered, the Gophers were fortunate to be trailing by only 23 points at halftime.
In the second half the Gophers played their hearts out but just couldn’t catch a break. Two examples were a missed 3 point shot by Gopher junior guard Maverick Ahanmisi with 5 minutes to play that would have cut the Indiana lead to just 10 points. With the momentum the Gophers had going, they could have overcome that deficit.
The other heartbreaking play was Minnesota’s inability to rebound a missed free throw with only 16 seconds remaining in the game and the Hoosiers leading by only 3 points. The ball took a goofy bounce off the hands of Trevor Mbakwe and Cody Zeller as they fought for the rebound which ended up in the hands of Indiana guard Jordan Hulls.
Add to all of this the fact that the officials never gave the Gophers the benefit of the doubt for the entire game. The Gophers average - REPEAT AVERAGE - 20 free throws a game this season. Minnesota shot only 15 free throws on Saturday while Indiana was given 40 shots from the charity line. Couple that with the fact that Indiana's pillar of excellence, seven foot center Cody Zeller, had only one foul called on him and that foul came with just 32 seconds left in the game. It would be a very cold day in hell before Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan or Bob Knight would ever let that happen to one of their teams.
Yet Tubby did nothing when his lads presented him with listless play in the first half - did nothing to disrupt Indiana's offensive flow and style of play in the first half - did nothing while the subs clearly demonstrated they were unable to play with the Hoosiers - and sat by as the officials deprived his kids of a fair shake. Just think what the Gophers could have accomplished had they brought a head coach with them to Indiana.
The Gophers not only overcame dreadful first half play against one of the best teams in the country but poor coaching as well, to come within an eyelash of pulling off a miracle. Once again the Gophers have demonstrated they are not just a terribly talented team but a team that has some real character and toughness – a team that should win the Big Ten title – a team we should eventually be very proud of.
Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.