Gophers look flat in win over Morehead

by David La

Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson played the role of an aggravated foreman after his team’s 86-67 win over Morehead State on Saturday.
In the win, the Gophers deviated from the blueprints and slacked off before the quitting-time whistle.
“Certainly, I wasn’t happy with the way we played today,” Monson said. “I think it was the first time this season where I thought our effort level in the second half wasn’t to where it needs to be.”
The Gophers’ second-half complacency resulted from their first half of stellar perimeter shooting. The reason for the hot hands? The Eagles’ zone defense permitted the Minnesota backcourt relatively uncontested looks at the basket from beyond the arc.
“Our game plan was to try to make them beat us from the perimeter,” Morehead State coach Kyle Macy said. “They hadn’t shown in their first couple games that they are an outstanding perimeter shooting team.”
In response, Minnesota guards Kevin Burleson and Terrance Simmons took turns shooting holes in the zone. The pair went 5-of-6 from three-point land in the first half. Simmons finished the game 4-of-4 on three pointers.
While the hot hands of the Minnesota swingmen helped the team to a 25-point, first-half lead, the Gophers cooled off considerably in the final 20 minutes.
“When shots go in it solves a lot of problems,” Monson said. “But to me that’s fool’s gold a little bit. That’s not going to be a strength of this team.”
The report card on the Gophers’ usual strengths sported a number of incompletes.
A 1-of-7 three-point water-ballooning in the second half followed the 5-of-6 bombing in the first.
Forwards Dusty Rychart and John-Blair Bickerstaff combined for 20 points in the first half and just two in the second.
As a team, Minnesota was outscored 38-32 in the second half.
“The thing I was most happy about is when I went in the locker room after the game the kids weren’t happy about the way they played today,” Monson said.
The Gophers played without freshman guard Shane Schilling, who incurred a three-game suspension for violating team rules. Monson said only, “When it happened really isn’t important, it’s not a thing I’m going to discuss.”
Schilling, who sat on the bench out of uniform, can play again on Dec. 11 against Maine.
Saturday’s win makes Minnesota 3-0 in its nonconference schedule. Tuesday the Gophers play Virginia (4-1), a team tied for fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Cavaliers will pose the toughest challenge to date for the Gophers and the team knows it can’t replicate the shortcomings of Saturday.
“We can’t do that (again),” Simmons said of the second-half lapse. “This is the Big Ten and when we start playing the Michigan State’s and the Ohio State’s that can never happen.
“If that starts to happen we’ll find ourselves losing big.”

David La Vaque covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]