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House Report: Gophers' guards struggle in a 69-60 loss to No. 7 Michigan

02/21/2019, 9:00pm CST
By Daniel House

Minnesota has been in so many situations where they haven’t shot the ball well this year. In Thursday night’s game, their guards couldn’t get anything going against No. 7 Michigan. 

The Gophers shot just 22 percent in the first half, and Michigan erupted, shooting 54 percent during the final 20 minutes. Guard Jordan Poole had 22 points, including five three pointers as the Wolverines cruised to a 69-60 victory. 

Throughout the season, Minnesota has lacked an identity and flow offensively. They’ve been desperately yearning for strong point guard play and haven’t received it. The Gophers’ guards were 0-for-14 from the floor in the first half and couldn’t capitalize upon the Wolverines’ cold spell. Overall, the five Minnesota guards shot 7-for-30 (23%) in this game. The starting trio of Gabe Kalscheur, Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer were a combined 6-for-27 (22%). Minnesota simply has no consistent action from the guards and they rely on the lost post game to remain competitive. It felt like they were taking the ball to the rim and trying to get fouled on many possessions. The lack of a true point guard facilitating the offense was a glaring weakness all night. 

Of the 60 points Minnesota scored, 44 were in the paint. Michigan shot the ball just 31 percent in the first half, but their team defense swallowed up the Gophers. It helped them weather the storm. They responded with a 54 percent shooting performance in the second half. Over the same span, Michigan’s offense drilled eight three-pointers as Minnesota’s struggled defensively. 

During two second half possessions, Jon Teske was left wide-open and converted three-pointers. Minnesota was slow getting out to the perimeter all night. The Wolverines’ ball movement, passing and off ball action was lethal. When they started hitting long-range shots, their spacing improved and they took the Gophers off the dribble.

Minnesota was on the other end of the three-point shooting spectrum. They continue to struggle hitting shots from downtown. In Big Ten losses, they are now 29-for-125 (23%) from three-point land. When they win conference games, they average around 40 percent. 

With that in mind, all the Gophers could do was feed Jordan Murphy, especially since the guards couldn’t get quality looks or hit open shots. They didn’t move the ball well and were very inefficient in all phases of their offense. It meant they either had to force things in the post or drive aimlessly to draw a foul. 

Early on, Minnesota’s first six points came inside behind powerful moves from both Oturu and Jordan Murphy. The offense sputtered early as the Gophers went 1-for-13 and missed nine consecutive shots. Michigan capitalized with a 15-2 run, behind three-pointers from Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis. The Gophers were held scoreless for more than five minutes and shot 20 percent (3-for-15) from the floor in the first 12 minutes of the game. When Minnesota settled for three-pointers and didn’t work the post, they really struggled. It felt like the gameplan had to be aggressive by getting downhill and attacking the basket. The Gophers followed this strategy, but fell behind because they couldn’t create open looks. 

Moments later, Michigan went on a scoring drought for more than three minutes, shooting 1-for-8 from the floor. The Gophers couldn’t take advantage, though. Michigan kept its lead around ten points as Minnesota committed five turnovers and couldn’t hit any shots. They finished the half shooting just 8-for-35, including 0-for-5 from downtown. In the first half, Minnesota guards were a combined 0-for-14, including zero points on ten shots by junior Amir Coffey. Of the 18 points scored in the first half, 16 of them came in the paint. It didn’t get any better, as Coffey went just 2-for-15 from the floor and had total six points. 

The Wolverines opened the half on a 12-2 run and extended their lead to 21 points behind four quick three-pointers in the second half. Minnesota simply couldn’t get anything going until a 7-0 run late in the second half. Gabe Kalscheur drilled a three-pointer and Dupree McBrayer stole the ball for a big transition slam. The Wolverines still led by 13 points and used three-point shooting and smooth ball rotations to answer the Gophers’ runs. Minnesota’s slow perimeter defense and inefficient offense allowed Michigan to cruise away for an effortless road win. 

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball