The Minnesota Gophers Men's basketball team lost a heartbreaking game to Michigan State today 65-64. Michigan State's first lead came with only minutes left in the game as Kalin Lucas hit yet another 3, ending with a game high 22.
At first glance, thiss looks like a well played game by the Gophers who were 3-3 in the Big Ten coming into the game and on the inside track for an NCAA tournament bid. Now their biggest win come tourney time may be... a close loss to Michigan State. A casual observer may view the loss with anxiety as the Gophers led by double digits for the majority of the game and second half as well.
Yes, it is always tough to give up a big lead like that after a well fought game, but the problem is not the loss, it is the complete lack of half court offense of the Gophers. The Gophers held the high powered offense of #7 State to under 40% field goal shooting and only 65 points in the game.
Yet, when the game was offered up to the rafters and Minnesota needed a bucket at the end with 15 seconds left, Lawrence Westbrook was forced to create 1 on 1 and ended up being stuffed in Draymond Green's lane. The previous five possessions all followed the same tune with 4 people standing around watching and either Westbrook or Joseph casting up seemingly impossible shots.
The sorrowful inability of the Gophers to produce a bucket in the half court offense hurts the most when the game is on the line. Yes they play great team defense. Yes they fastbreak usually well. However, when a basket is needed in a half court set the Gophers look lost at what to do.
This is again echoed by the number of times the shot clock nearly expires when the Gophers are forced to run a half court set. This problem falls on Tubby Smith.
Tubby has no idea what to do with his team's in the half court. This is why he was run out of Kentucky and why he is not living up to his name here either. I am a huge Tubby Smith fan, but facts are facts. He is a commendable man for suspending Royce White as well as numerous other players at the start of the season for improper conduct detrimental to the team.
Plain and simple Tubby Smith is a fantastic person and mentor. He is not however the amazing coach he is thought to be. He was spotted attending a St. Thomas practice, a local D3 college in Minnesota last year.
Smith cannot run an offense to do several things that need to happen for the Gophers. They need to stop getting the ball into the suckhole low posts that include Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson as much as they do. Once the ball goes in it hardly ever comes back out or creates a quality shot. Secondly, the Gophers need to get Blake Hoffarber more looks. Today, against a great defense, he was only able to attempt four 3 pointers and five total field goals. He is shooting over 50% from 3 on the season and is arguably one of the best shooters in all of college basketball.
If Tubby Smith is able to accomplish these things within a half court set, the Gophers will be back in the top 25 rankings and be contending for a Big Ten Championship. Until that happens, however, the Gophers will continue to suffer losses, especially at the end of games, because of their inability to execute a half court offense.