The Gophers entered this week’s Maui Invitational undefeated but with a lot to prove. Despite the relatively low level of competition they’ve faced this year, Minnesota showed some positive signs heading into the tournament but through two games, we’ve seen both ends of the spectrum.
In game one against No. 8 Syracuse, we saw some good signs. Several times throughout the game the Gophers found themselves down by double digits but by creating offense though their defense, they were able to battle back to within single digits.
The game against the Orange was hard fought. The Gophers only played a seven-man rotation and were able to press the whole game, demonstrating their pre-season conditioning. They were evenly matched in rebounding while being undersized compared to the much bigger Syracuse team. They also knocked down more than 40 percent of their three point attempts.
In the press conference after the game, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim gave the Gophers a lot of credit and saying he wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota makes a run in the Big Ten.
The Syracuse game was marked as a success, despite the loss. The game on Tuesday against Arkansas, however, was a completely different story.
The Gophers had a decent first half, up by five heading into halftime. The second half, however, consisted of Arkansas going on a 34-to-12 run.
In addition to defensive woes that provided to be the deciding factor in the loss, the Gophers also struggled to hang onto the ball with 16 turnovers. Their demeanor at the end of the game told the whole story, with the players looking fatigued and disappointed.
“I think people gained a little respect for us yesterday with how hard we played. We were physical, we were tough, we were scrappy, and I think we kind of set the tone for the way we wanted to play,” said Richard Pitino after the loss. “Basically, Arkansas beat us at our own game. They were tougher. They were scrappier.”