Gophers struggle in SoCal Challenge Final against UNLV 62-71

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Full Game Recap:

  • First Half: UNLV came out of the gate firing. A 4-10 shooting start from the field, gave the Runnin’ Rebels a 10-3 lead heading into the first media timeout of the game. The Gophers quickly began to settle in as Jamison Battle and Braeden Carrington led the way with six and five points respectively. UNLV led 18-17 with 8:32 to go in the first half. On a massive and-one Battle got to eight points and the Gophers tied it up for the first time since 0-0. The Runnin’ Rebels almost immediately responded with an 11-0 run of their own, regaining a 30-20 lead heading into the final media timeout of the half. Minnesota couldn’t seem to buy a basket and UNLV headed into the break ahead 38-24.
  • Second Half: It was much of the same story for the Gophers in half No. 2. It was Jamison Battle and not much else. With a team-high 15 points, Minnesota trailed 46-34 with 14:54 to go in the game. With a 3-13 shooting start, UNLV extended its lead to 52-34 heading into the under-12 media timeout. There was simply nothing that went right for the Gophers in the final 20 minutes, ultimately falling 62-71.

Instant Reaction:

Ben Johnson and the Gophers have a lot of exciting pieces, but none of them seem to fit well together right now. Jamison Battle is an All-Big Ten level talent and Dawson Garcia could easily play in the NBA, but at the moment, the dynamic duo seems to not know how to co-exist on the floor at the same time. Freshmen Braeden Carrington and Pharrel Payne have both shown star potential and Ta’Lon Cooper has looked like a more than-quality Big Ten point guard at times. Why aren’t they producing a better product on the court?

For starters, heading into tonight the Gophers shot 54.5% from the free-throw line the 349th-worst mark in college basketball. They shot 11-19 tonight. That is simply a red-alert major issue. Secondly, they need more from Dawson Garcia. With 17 points Jamison Battle looks well on his way to returning to his former self, but Garcia has struggled to produce on the offensive end. He just can’t seem to get into the flow of the offense with Battle on the floor. He finished 17 points in the box score, but it just doesn’t seem easy for him to get going. At the end of the day, Minnesota’s starters not named Jamison Battle combined to shoot 10-26 from the field.

What is Next?:

Life does not get any easier for Ben Johnson and the Gophers. With a Big Ten/ACC Challenge road matchup against Virginia Tech, I believe that things will, unfortunately, get worse before they get better. This team has the personnel to be competitive with teams like DePaul and UNLV, but they just need to start executing. They need to start playing with an edge.

There are plenty of pieces and enough talent on this roster for this team to continue to improve and I expect them to. But this is the time for Ben Johnson to prove he is a different coach than Richard Pitino. The last regime struggled mightily to develop talent. This team and program have the talent, it is now time to develop and show improvement throughout the season.

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