It will be very interesting to see the media response to this one. It will fall into two camps. The intelligent media who watched the game will see that we fell to a good team on its home court in a game we took to the last possession. One of best scorers happened to have an off night, we shot 38% from the field as a team, and we let one of their players have a career night. We still took the game to the final possession and had several chances in the last three minutes to tie. The fools in the media will play the Robbie card, say we were exposed, and forget that we have literally a dozen other games just like this remaining and that there is no way we were winning them all.
Ryne Smith, D.J Byrd (twice), and E'Twaun each had good looks at a three after Al Nolen hit the game winner with 3:17 left. If one goes down we're probably looking at a different result right now. We went cold at the wrong time and E'Twaun had just an atypical bad night. That's all.
I also have to give credit to Minnesota. Blake Hoffarber had an excellent game, bat we very limited after we put Kelsey Barlow on him. They harassed our shooters and took away our drive with nine blocked shots. It was a terrible matchup for us and we still took it to the final possession. Ralph Sampson III and Al Nolen hit some tough late shots and we went the last night minutes without hitting a field goal, mostly because of their defense.
This is a game that will be forgotten if we win the next few. We weren't going to go undefeated in conference play. Again, the foolish media members will say we were exposed in our first game against a good team. The solution to that is to keep winning and we will quiet them, starting on Sunday.
Positives from the Minnesota game:
Free Throw shooting - It is hard to say we needed to work on getting to the line more with the inconsistent calls, but a perfect 13 for 13 from the line was very nice. LewJack was especially effective this way, and took over for Ryne Smith in scoring. I would like to have seen us work our way to the line in the last three minutes, but every time we drove we got swatted cleanly.
Lewis Jackson - This young man had himself a game. If E'Twaun is the usual Smooge we win by double digits again because of LewJack. He hit big shot after big shot and was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line. I again give credit to Minnesota for playing Ryne Smith close. I actually wanted to see us look for him for the three at the end. I trusted him.
JaJuan Johnson - JJ was overmatched and double-teamed all night. The Golden Gophers ran it seemed like half a dozen different defenders at him. It didn't matter. This is why he is the best center in the country. Period.
Terone Johnson - TJ had a very underrated night, but it was solid. His eight points at key times, including two huge triples, he hit some of the biggest shots of his career so far.
Travis Carroll and Sandi Marcius - Call me crazy, but I really like what I saw out of them. They didn't hurt us when they were out there except for the fact that we couldn't run our normal lineup. That isn't their fault though. That was caused by Minnesota's size forcing us to run several minutes with both Hansons. Carroll had a nice tip in and their four combined rebounds were all effort.
ESPN - Thank you for not showing the Robbie injury clip. I was pleasantly surprised.
Defense on Trevor Mbakwe - For a guy that the commentators were making out to be a demon of a player he sure didn't do much. He was a defensive presence, especially when LewJack drove late, but we did a good job on him offensively.
Negatives from the Minnesota game:
E'Twaun Moore - I have no idea what was wrong with him, but he seemed off the entire night. Even before Ralph Sampson III fell on him and he got up slightly gimpy he seemed off. I am encouraged because I know this is an atypical night from him. If we get normal E'Twaun We win by 10. If even one three falls (and he had all but one as a good look) it is a different game. Even with an off night shooting he still gave us seven assists. I think you can tell he was off when he didn't hustle back on a breakaway he could have stopped.
A slight coaching adjustment - This is slight, but I was really surprised we didn't put Barlow on Hoffarber earlier. Once we did that Hoffarber wasn't a factor.
First half defense - We won't be giving up 41 points in a half again this year.
Again, I really have to give credit to Minnesota. We won the glass tonight (unexpectedly), but they hit every big shot they needed to hit. We took the best shot of a good team on its home floor and came up a little short. There is no shame in that at all, especially considering that E'Twaun gave us his worst game in a long time by forcing shots.
This result means nothing as long as we start winning again immediately. The intelligent media will see this. If we knock off West Virginia, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State before we play them again we will be fine. I know we'll look better when we get them in West Lafayette too. This was merely a minor setback to a good team. Minnesota was better by a little bit on this night. Even almighty Duke isn't perfect anymore.
We're not going to go the last 9:25 of a game without hitting a field goal again. think about it. We still nearly won a game where we couldn't hit anything from the field int he last nine minutes. Cold stretches happen to EVERYONE. Those that know the game will see this and still know we're a dangerous team. Cold stretches on the road in the Big Ten against anyone are especially bad. there is a reason that our eight game road winning streak in the league was one of the longest in a long time: It's really, really flipping hard to win in the Big Ten.
This is merely one battle we lost. We'll retreat and come back stronger. If you write us off now you're a fool.