Episode 29: Gophers drop first home game to Maryland, up next is Purdue

In this week’s episode of the “Weekly Rundown” our staff discusses the Gophers men’s basketball team’s first home loss of the season to Maryland, the team’s shooting struggles and what to expect on Saturday against Purdue.

Nolan O'Hara and AJ Condon

INTRO MUSIC PLAYS

NOLAN O’HARA: Welcome back to another episode of the “Weekly Rundown,” presented by the Minnesota Daily. I’m your host Nolan O’Hara. Last week, we were back for the first time in a while and we’re fortunate enough to discuss the Gophers men’s basketball team. Glad to be back and hopefully here on a more regular basis. And we have some more basketball to talk about again this week. So I’m back with AJ Condon, who writes about the basketball team here at The Daily. How’s it going, AJ?

AJ CONDON: It’s going great. Always a pleasure to be on here with you. So I’m looking forward to it.

O’HARA: It’s always good. Always good to have you here. So, so glad we can talk some more, some more basketball here this week and want to kick things off obviously talking about the loss to Maryland this last week. It was their first home loss of the season, oddly enough, and but before we get too much into it, I just want to ask kind of what was your opinion watching this game? Were you surprised by any of the struggles against Maryland?

CONDON: Yeah, I was actually, well, if you listened to last week, I was hoping for a double-digit win. It’s kind of the opposite. So um, it was kind of surprised with how Maryland came out with their starting five, the one with more of a smaller, starting five given their guards still are bigger than our guard. So they did go they did come out with four guards and then down to Danta Scott at the five. And I really thought that was going to play to the Gophers’ advantage with having Robbins having about three and a half inches on Scott. But instead it worked out to Maryland’s favor. They were shadowing him in the paint when he didn’t have the ball. And right when he gets the ball, they come and double him.

I believe he had like those first two points of the game, ended up getting a free throw later in the half and then went scoreless pretty much until you hit a three in the second half. So I was really surprised that the Gophers weren’t able to get Robbins more involved. He did go into that foul trouble again, like we’ve seen in the earlier part of the season. And the second half, I think was mostly frustration from just not getting the ball, watching the first half not really going his way. He picked up three fouls in three minutes. So that was a letdown there. And then yeah, I just was surprised by how we played offensively and the height on the guards for our defensive side. Ayala was just he was pretty much scoring at will. And him and Danta Scott really just ran the game for the Terps.

O’HARA: Yeah, it was a little bit surprising to see them just kind of come out, you know, got down at halftime and it really didn’t get much better for the Gophers after that. And you know, one of the biggest things they struggled with was shooting I mean, I think everybody watching that game just you know, brick after brick. And I think if I remember correctly Kalscheur and Gach combined to go 0-10 which is certainly not ideal, but even the rest of the team outside of Carr wasn’t shooting at a high clip by any means. And you know, you talked about what Pitino had been saying with the team last week where he’d been saying, ‘if you’re the worst three-point shooting team you shouldn’t be taking the most attempts.’ Um, but you know, I read Chip Scoggins, from the Star Tribune, his column this last week and saw some numbers that kind of stood out and the Gophers are 295th in three-point shooting percentage but they shoot the ball 23rd most from three in the country.

What’s the strategy here? Is this like something Pitino is trying to encourage his team not to do or is it? I mean, where are they with this? Why do they kind of keep continuing to shoot the three if that’s clearly not the strength of this team right now? 

CONDON: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely a question that I asked myself, game after game. And I think part of it is that teams are just giving them open looks because they know they’re not going to hit them. Going back to this Maryland game they shot 21.7% from the three and in my story that I wrote about their home verse way I really noticed not even just differentiate home away but just game after game. They’re shooting under 30% from three so teams are going to keep letting them shoot that until the Gophers can figure it out. And given they did figure out that one game, it’s Iowa that’s one game. So I mean, teams are going to keep doing that.

I think Gabe is still trying to just get back to that freshman form because we know how good he was freshman year and I think he knows he is able to get back to there. So he’s going to keep shooting the three and Pitino. I’ve said this countless times, he’s fine with Gabe on his offense. He’s fine to keep shooting because of what he brings on defense. So I don’t think I don’t think Gabe is going to change anything in this game. I think he’s still going to keep shooting it. Like you said last game. Gach and Gabe combined 0-10, they scored two points total both at a free throw. And the Gophers really didn’t get any offense outside of Carr, so Carr is one of those guys that is able to hit the three that when he’s feeling it, but there’s got to be some other options besides just that because if he’s not going to play well, the Gophers seem to just fall and crumble. And that’s pretty much it.

O’HARA: Right? It seems like with Carr, it’s kind of this this conundrum because he’s, he’s really the only one who consistently make three-point shots. And he’s also the only one who seems to attack the basket when they need to get something going. So whenever there’s like, you know, some anything going wrong on the offense, it seems like I’ll fall on his shoulders, which is not what Pitino wants, as he said, he’s like, we can’t go out there and expect Marcus to score 30 points every single night. And you know, you mentioned the home the home-away article that you just wrote that’ll be out at the same time as this podcast. Yeah, they’re 0-4 on the road, 11-1 at home. But Maryland here, this was their first home loss. And it looked like the losses we’ve seen on the road where they’re just outplayed. They’re shooting poorly. Not a lot going right. Is it, after seeing that is it more so, do you have the same view that it’s this home-away deal? Or do you think that this is kind of a team that’s either really good or really bad and it doesn’t really matter the venue?

CONDON: Yeah, so that last kind of took away from what my article is going to be about, because I was really hoping they’d win. So it could help my point in the article, right. But yeah, it really does seem like this team is either really good, or really bad. And when they’re losing their games, they are shooting around like 32% a game. And that’s not going to win you games. And so after that Maryland game, we saw that it’s not just because they’re playing on the road, they are either a team that shows up or a team that does not, and on Saturday did not show up, and they’re going to have some games coming up, where they’re going to have to show up, whether it’s at home, or whether it’s on the road, if they want to continue to be ranked in the top-25 and show that to the committee that they’re a high enough ranked team going into the tournament, so they really do need to figure out what is the issue between playing really bad and really good, because you just need to find that middle ground, you don’t have to play amazing every game. But if you’re going to find the middle ground, at least these losses won’t be by double digits, which all of them have been. So that’s what they really got to figure out.

O’HARA: Right? You look at their 11 wins. They look like they could possibly be a top-10 team. And then in their five losses, they look like they belong nowhere near the tournament. So it’s it really is that kind of bizarre arm. Yeah, they’re just they’re just really good or really bad. And they’ve been worse on the road for sure. And then overall, I mean, we’re 16 games into the season here. Do you have any kind of big thoughts, big, big reservations about this team? Is there anything we’ve learned through the 16 games specifically? And in this Maryland game?

CONDON: Yeah, I mean, like we talked about before, it’s the question I have as team is who can consistently provide outside of Carr and that we’ve seen stuff from Robbins early in the season, we’ve seen stuff from Both, but who can consistently do it. We’re getting Jamal Mashburn, coming off the bench. And last game, he was a great spark in the first half, he had nine points after that didn’t score for the rest of the game. So I keep going back to consistency, because Carr’s the only one that seems to have it, but I’m pretty sure there’s other players on this team that are capable of it.

So that’s a question I’m going to be looking at for the final 10, maybe 11 games that Nebraska game gets rescheduled, we’re going to be looking at who can step up consistently, and who’s going to be able to help out Carr and take some pressure off him. Like we talked about that three-point shooting, either try to fix it, which I’m assuming they are trying to do that in practice, or just stop shooting it because what was it 297th ranked 295th ranked, you’re not going to win games by shooting the 23rd most when you’re ranked that low. So either figure it out or stop shooting it and just attack the rim, we see Carr can do it. Gabe can do it. Both can do it. And even Liam inside of the paint, there’s guys that can score the rim. So I don’t know why they’re relying so much on the three-point shot when it’s not when it’s not there.

O’HARA: Right, I was just kind of thinking to wasn’t one thing, it’s kind of reminiscent for me is a couple years ago with the with Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey, it was you know, because Murphy can’t do it all on his own and Coffey was basically, if he if he wasn’t flowing, then the offense was really stagnant because they can just double Murphy and it’s kind of reminiscent to me like looking at that and seeing kind of the offense now with Carr where it’s really he’s in command of the offense. It seems like the Gophers always seem to have a good point guard. I mean, you look at Nate Mason too even before it always seemed like a good point guard that can run the offense, but it’s kind of all run through them. And when they’re not flowing, then the team is struggling.

CONDON: It’s funny because last time with Murphy and Coffey was like it was the big guy that the gophers rely on and now it’s their point guard that they’re relying on. And it was a mirror that if he was on the Gopher, Liam on the Gophers are even better. So hopefully they can figure that out. And hopefully, even if it’s not this year, there’s a lot of returning players next year, and they’re just going to have more and more time to play together. More and more time to gain chemistry. So just because it’s not happening this year, there’s still the future of this team. It’s not like it’s like a win or bust. 

O’HARA: Right for sure. And I mean, looking towards this year here next week, this weekend, we got Purdue, the Gophers have Purdue. Boilermakers have a strong front court with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. I mean, how do you think the Gophers match up with those two bigs and what kind of looks do you expect from the Gophers defensively trying to slow down those two big men?

CONDON: Yeah, so this game is definitely a struggle for the Gophers. I don’t really expect much differently from the defensive side, given they haven’t really switched up much besides when they played Iowa and Garza. Obviously, he’s one of the best bigs in the nation. So you have to change up your defensive outlook on that, but I really don’t expect that much different. Unless he does on the court. I mean, he’s seven-foot-four freshman. And there’s not many guys in this conference level in the league that are taller than Robbins, he is one of them. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Gophers start doubling Edey when he gets the ball inside and just, he’s a freshman. He’s still young, just make him uncomfortable and they’re making him uncomfortable the paint, he’s not going to shoot the ball on you. So let them pass out.

I do worry about their shooters a little. Jaden Ivey is a freshman; he’s been impressive in their wins this year. And then Sasha Stefanovic, he’s a good three-point shooter, I believe he’s shooting around 45%. So those are guys that you are going to have to look out for. If you’re going to be doubling Edey when he’s inside, you’re going to have to look out for those shooters. And like you said, Trevion Williams, he is he’s a great big for Purdue. He won co-Big Ten player of the week with Liam a few weeks back. He’s been outstanding this year, and he’s going to definitely give Robbins a tough time when he’s in the paint. He’s, I think two inches shorter than him. But he moves very well. And that’s going to be a struggle for Robbins to be able to move his feet and not get into foul trouble. Because if he gets in foul trouble, having the guys come off the bench, and then when he comes having them try to guard Edey is going to be a problem for the Gophers.

O’HARA: Yeah, I wanted to ask about the foul trouble, because like you brought up earlier, you know, it reappeared last week. And that costs the Gophers for sure. And playing against these bigs, I mean, is he going to be able to stay out of foul trouble and just kind of more generally, how does he match up with Edey and Williams?

CONDON: Yeah, so what we saw last week, I think, was very uncharacteristic. It looked more like the first few games of the season when he’s fouling out of frustration, and not because he did on his feet. So and those last three fouls or middle three fouls that came at the beginning of the second half. I think they were just very uncharacteristic, like I said, I don’t think that’s something we have to go back into that he’s going to start getting to foul trouble again, I think that was a one-time thing. He knows that he can’t do that. He’s one of our best players. We need him on the court, especially in the game against Purdue, he’s going to be needed on the on the court. So, Pitino has got to talk to him. And he’s a junior, he knows that this is stuff that he can continuously do. Or else he’s going to hurt the team, and he’s going to lose playing time. So I fully expect him to come back. It is going to be tough, though, against Williams against Edey. But I do think he’ll come back and he’ll he will be able to guard those two without any foul trouble. I don’t know how well, those two are going to play. I just I’m pretty confident he will not find himself in foul trouble.

O’HARA: Right. And like you said, they definitely need them out there. Because there’s not too many guys taller than him. And Edey is one of them. And they have no height, I mean, otherwise to match up. It would be they need Curry to step up big time in that case, and he’d be playing a lot of minutes that he hasn’t, hasn’t played this year. And then you mentioned Purdue’s guards a little bit. And some of the things that they can do for the Gophers? Should they be as focused on those guys? Or should they really be focused on Edey and Williams and if they can contain them, then just kind of let the damage fall as it may with Purdue’s guards?

CONDON: Yeah, I mean, Trevion Williams is definitely the guy to worry about on that team. I think the first thought is to you have to stop him and kind of make Purdue and other ways. And I think teams had that same thought about Minnesota. You stop caring you stop Robbins lead, Minnesota and other ways. And for Minnesota, we haven’t seen that really happen so far. But going into this game, I think that’s what Pitino, Minnesota has to do is stop Trevion Williams. And obviously don’t let stuff out of it, shoot threes, but let the other guards be used. So I think the main attack is stopping Trevion inside. And obviously not having Liam get into foul trouble.

O’HARA: For sure. Yeah. And, you know, aside from that, what are some other things that would be key for the Gophers to do to come up with the win and Is there anyone you think for Minnesota needs to really step up? And then I guess lastly, are there any predictions you have for this game? Thoughts on the score? Who wins, anything to expect?

CONDON: Yes, I said the same thing last week but get Liam Robbins the ball. If he is not in the court. Like I said he’s going to have two inches on Williams. So get Robbins the ball in the paint, let him let him get going early, he got the first two points last week, and then he just wasn’t getting the touches the rest of the first half, and then foul trouble happened. And he’s pretty much just not in the game. So let them get the ball, even let him shoot the three, he is one of the other people on the team that I’m fine with him shooting the three, he’s shown that he can hit the shot. And that just opens up the court more we talked about last week having Gabe be that guy. But even if Robbins can do it too, and bigs are going to have to come out to him. And he’s agile enough to be able to put the ball in the court and get to the rim. So I think he’s going to be a big part in this game. Also, Both and Gabe need to defend those guards. Well, I’m not going to expect much from them on offense, just because I think that’s asking more than… 

O’HARA: That’s just the way it’s been like, yeah.

CONDON: Yeah. And then obviously, Carr’s got to be good. Not just scoring, though, but facilitating and giving the ball to other players. Brandon Johnson needs to step up a little Eric Curry, even a guy like Jamal Mashburn. I mean, he’s coming off the bench. And sometimes he’s 1-10. But other times he gives the team such a good spark. And his full court press is one of my favorite things about this team. Every time it comes in. He’s the lone guy pressing, and it just slows down the other team’s offense, gives him another look. So I’m really looking forward to see how he continues to better himself this year, personally, and as a team player. So those are the guys I’m going to be looking for. And this upcoming game to try to get that first road win against Purdue.

O’HARA: For sure. Do you think they do you think they’ll come out with their first road win here?

CONDON: I think they do. And the only reason I say that is because they have to do it some point. And I’m just hoping that this will be the first one and it kind of sparks the team and turns them around. We’ve seen them struggle after losses. But we’ve also seen them come back this year. And I think this is a game where they’re able to come back and show that they’re not just going to fall out.

O’HARA: Right. I think they’re bound for a road win at some point. They can’t lose every game on the road. I don’t expect and I think coming off that Maryland’s loss, I think the team will be energized. I think Pitino will be having them focused on a win. And I think they should be able to beat a pretty decent Purdue team. But certainly not one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

CONDON: Yeah, no reason to overlook this team at all. I mean, they’re actually above the Gophers in the Big Ten standings. So they’re solid team, and they’re playing at home, which obviously is never an easy thing given there are no fans, or at least not as many fans as usual. But this definitely should be a game that they’re able to win. It just depends if they do.

O’HARA: Right. And you know, just like last week to Maryland was a game, they certainly should have been able to win; Maryland showed that they were capable team previously. And they may have overlooked them a little bit. So I don’t expect the Gophers to overlook this Purdue team. But it should be a good game. I’m excited. 

CONDON: Yeah, it’ll be a fun one. I kind of wish I was there. But it’s an away game. And we’ll get them we’ll get them here. So Oh, actually, no, we don’t so Oh, we do we do have them February 11. 

O’HARA: So you’d be able to watch them at the Barn. 

CONDON: Exactly. 

O’HARA: For sure. Those Minnesota-Purdue games are always are always really fun to watch. So it should be an exciting one this weekend.

CONDON: It really should. I just hope that at some point, the Barn can start getting fans in there. Because there’s been a few games obviously this year where fans were in the Barn. For those upset wins. I can’t even imagine how excited the fans and students on this campus would be so really hoping that at some point, maybe not this year, but in the near future that the Barn can be packed together and everyone can experience these wins together.

O’HARA: Right. Yeah, that that Iowa game would have been nuts and hopeful for this vaccine rollout and can get back to it and get the Barn the way it should be with loud with lots of fans.

CONDON: Exactly. 

O’HARA: I think that’s it, I think we hit everything here today. Thank you for joining and, and we will be talking again soon for sure. 

CONDON: Yeah, as always, thanks for having me.

OUTRO MUSIC PLAYS

O’HARA: In other news: The Gophers women’s basketball team won its game on Thursday against Purdue 77-72. Sara Scalia led the team with 30 points while Kadi Sissoko added 17 and five rebounds. After struggling in the beginning of conference play, the Gophers have now rattled off three straight wins to move to 5-7 on the season. 

Both the Gophers men’s and women’s hockey teams take on Ohio State this weekend. The men’s team bounced back last weekend for a 20-goal sweep over Arizona State after getting swept to the week previous to Notre Dame, while the women’s team hasn’t played since about swept by Wisconsin on Jan. 16-17. When the Gophers women’s team takes the ice this weekend, it’ll be the No. 2 Gophers versus the No. 3 Buckeyes. 

If you’re missing Gophers football, you can catch two former Gophers, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs. 

That’s all for this week. Be sure to check our website mndaily.com for more extensive coverage and tune in again next week to get the “Weekly Rundown” on all things Gopher sports.