Gophers survive Cal Baptist comeback 62-61 in SoCal Challenge opener

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Full Game Recap:

  • First Half: The Gophers couldn’t have started any better, jumping out to a 15-0 lead 8+ minutes into the game. As expected, Cal Baptist responded with a run of its own. Four Minnesota turnovers sparked a 13-4 run for the Lancers. Ultimately, the Gophers were able to hold onto their lead 26-18, thanks to seven points and seven rebounds from Pharrel Payne. It was an impressive defensive half from the Maroon & Gold, as Cal Baptist did not seem to know what it was doing offensively.
  • Second Half: Jamison Battle looked like he was beginning to settle in, as half No. 2 got underway. With five quick points, the Gophers lead 35-25 with 16:14 to go. The scoring seemed to finally pick up, as the Gophers’ freshmen Pharrel Payne and Braeden Carrington kept pace with a 40-31 lead heading into the under 12-minute media timeout. After extending the lead to 13, the Lancers were not going away and cut into the Gophers’ lead 45-36 with 8:48 to go. It wouldn’t stop there getting all the way down to 45-42 with 6:50 to go. A remarkable 20+ point second-half performance from WAC freshman of the year, Taran Armstrong evened the game at 53 with 57-seconds to go. Both teams had a shot to win in regulation, but couldn’t convert giving us some free basketball
  • Overtime: It was not pretty for either team in overtime. A Dawson Garcia game-winner was all Minnesota needed and came out on top 62-61.

Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

There were flashes of impressive defensive potential with Jamison Battle in the lineup for the first time this season, but there was a lot to be desired on the offensive end. After the 15-0 start, it just never seemed like the Gophers were able to mesh with Battle on the floor. He struggled shooting 4-15, but is also seemed like nobody was able to find themselves next to him.

Fortunately, this Gophers team will only continue to get better. Dawson Garcia has shown flashes of superstar potential, but he has struggled to find consistency this season and today was no different. With Jamison Battle in the lineup, this is a much more complete roster. I am confident that there will be games this season where Garcia dominates, but having a consistent 18+ (when 100%) from Battle opens the door for all the ancillary players on this roster.

Ta’Lon Cooper has shown that he is more than capable of slipping into a tertiary scoring role and more of a facilitator. When he spreads the rock at a high level, role players like Pharel Payne, Braeden Carrington, and Jaden Henley are able to find the bottom of the net at opportune times. There is still quite a ways to go for this team to mesh, but they have exciting pieces. Being able to match 8 deep with really any roster in the Big Ten is a massive difference from last season. I believe we are still far from figuring out the ceiling of this team. It certainly was not pretty, but sometimes a win is all you need.

What is Next?:

The Gophers will now face the winner of UNLV and Southern Illinois, who play later Monday night local time. The Runnin’ Rebels and Salukis are both formidable mid-major opponents that will be a substantial step up in competition over Cal Baptist. On paper, the SoCal Challenge is far from an impressive Holiday Tournament field, but whoever the Gophers play Wednesday night will be a relatively solid test before the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

With a matchup against a tough Virginia Tech team on the horizon and a pair of early-season Big Ten games over Michigan and Purdue, the next few weeks will tell a lot about this basketball team. I am not yet sure what their ceiling can truly be, but I can confidently say this team will only get better, which was not the case with last season’s team.

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