The Golden Gophers don’t have a whole lot of players, but against Illinois, Richard Pitino managed to squeeze every ounce of potential from each of them.
Ex-lummox Mo Walker dropped a few pounds in the off season, and dropped a few post moves on Nnanna Egwu and Maverick Morgan. It’s kinda neat to see a big man demonstrate a soft touch around the rim. It’s been a while.
OK, that’s not fair. Morgan shows a soft touch when he’s facing the basket. Nnanna has that baby hook thing that sometimes goes in. But Saturday at The Barn, Walker used the glass, his big ole butt, and footwork to get shots. And he converted them.
Big Mo grabbed 13 rebounds. Egwu and Morgan had 4 each. (Egwu played just over twice as many minutes as Maverick, 27-to-13. Morgan would have had a career high in scoring, except John Groce called timeout just before Morgan’s fourth (of four) made jumper. Groce kinda sorta apologized for that in his postgame presser.
Kendrick Nunn did a lot of shit-talking to Andre Hollins as Hollins dumped 28 points on him. It almost came to blows at one point, but Hollins was too busy making buckets to get involved.
Still, Illinois might have overcome those efforts becept for … let me look this name up again … oh yeah, Carlos Morris. Ever heard of him?
He made 4-of-4 FGs and 3-of-3 from the arc, plus 5-of-6 from the stripe. (He entered the game shooting 32.8% on the year from long range.)
In fact, from the tone of the Q&A with Richard Pitino, one gets the feeling that all these guys had a career game, and generally play like crap.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the elevated court, Malcolm Hill converted a mere 5-of-17 from the floor.
Mike LaTulip saw significant, meaningful minutes for the first time in his career. (Not counting the glimpse against Michigan last year, or this week’s moment against Purdue). For some reason, he chose not to shoot a wide-open three-pointer, twice, as the shot clock ran down. This was during the first half, when the game was competitive.
John Groce wasn’t sure why Mike didn’t pull the trigger. “I wanted him to shoot it.”
Tracy Abrams didn’t make the trip due to a death in the family. On the bright side, he seems to have recovered from conjunctivitis.
Ryan Schmidt made a contribution in his first game as an Illini. When the Minnesota floor crew failed to mop up a wet spot neear the Illinois bench, Schmidt grabbed a towel, jumped on the court, and took care of it himself. Rayvonte Rice and James Haring were thoroughly amused.
There’s no game this week. So you won’t have to think about Illinois basketball for a few days. On the other hand, if the Illini had won, you’d really enjoy thinking about Illini basketball this week.
Instead, perhaps you should use your free time to plan a trip for Spring Break. It seems like you’ll be free for most of March.