Gophers Show Their Depth And Maturity Against Florida StatePosted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 2012
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
Non-conference games on neutral courts are tough but they don’t present the same challenges as true road games. Tubby Smith’s Gophers had a great run during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last weekend but hot players can ride a streak when playing three games in three nights. Even though winning two games in three nights is very impressive, the Gophers had yet to play on the road until last night’s game against Florida State, so there were still a few questions about their composure away from Minneapolis. The Seminoles are a defensive-oriented team that would fit perfectly well in the B1G because of their grind-it-out style of play. Factoring in their fatigue (fourth game in six nights) and a road contest against an opponent that had not played a game in six days could have meant that the Gophers would have trouble, but Minnesota showed no signs of slowing down. Not only did they convincingly win in Tallahassee, 77-68, but they proved that their depth and maturity will be their greatest assets this year.
- Depth at the Guard Position: Both of the Hollins, Austin and Andre, have a common last name but provide great diversity to Smith’s offense in the half-court. Andre Hollins showed that he can score from anywhere on the floor as he went off for 41 points against Memphis last week but he also showed that he can facilitate last night by dishing out five assists against FSU. He was the primary ballhandler and had some nice passes in transition to the other wings. Austin Hollins, on the other hand, has a great wingspan and consistently cuts to the basket. Even though he was only 1-4 from beyond the arc last night, he muscled his way into the paint for eight free throw attempts. The third guard in the starting rotation, Joe Coleman, has a great mid-range jumper. He is strong enough (6’4″, 200 lbs.) to set hard screens out top and roll off to drain 15-footers from the mid-range. If this trio of guards isn’t enough, Julian Welch can fill in perfectly for any of them if they get into foul trouble. Because Welch can score off the bench, Coleman or Austin Hollins can afford to take chances on the defensive end and be a bit more physical against the best wing on the opposing team. The starters played FSU sharpshooter Michael Snaer very closely Tuesday night and held him to just 33% shooting from the field. Minnesota might have one of the best guard combinations in the Big Ten.
- Patience on Offense: All that depth at the guard position doesn’t mean much if the Gophers are not patient in setting up their offense. They were extremely patient in their halfcourt sets last night – pick-and-rolls, mid-range jumpers, three-point shooting – you name it, they had it. Both Coleman and Andre Hollins would set up the plays as Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins set screens at the top of the key. Having multiple ball-handlers allows the Gophers to look for multiple screens and move the ball around consistently. When open looks from beyond the arc were not available, the guards would reset the offense by looking for further screens and wide open 18-foot jumpers. There was one possession around the four-minute mark in the second half that exemplified their patience. Four different Gophers touched the ball (Austin Hollins, Coleman, Andre Hollins and Williams) and there were at least two pump fakes from beyond the arc. They moved the ball around quickly from one end to the other and the possession resulted in a reverse layup by Coleman as he weaved around the baseline from the top of the key to score with seven seconds left on the shot clock. Overall, the guards looked extremely comfortable throughout the game against a well-coached defense that has been one of the best in the ACC over past several seasons.
Clearly Trevor Mbakwe’s health is still a concern for the Gophers and they will need him to play nearly 30 minutes a night effectively in order to truly compete in the Big Ten. But it was very clear against Florida State that Tubby Smith has great leadership already on the court. Neither Mbakwe nor the high-flying Williams controls this team like his guards do. Their composure and patience will pay huge dividends for the Gophers even if it takes Mbakwe another month to return to 100% game shape.