Gophers head coach Richard Pitino looked at the assembled media in his postgame press conference. His team had just won their first Big 10 game and he was in no mood to field questions about his team watching a 19 point lead dwindle to three.
"We were up by 19 and then they cut it to three, and you want to focus on the negatives, but we have to remember for about 80 percent of the game," Pitino said. "We played great defense, rebounded the basketball and were really efficient on offense."
While he isn't necessarily wrong and a win is a win, it is the second straight conference game that his team has struggled in the last five minutes of the game. The Gophers have made just one field goal on 10 attempts down the stretch and have been outscored a combined 29-19 if not for good free throw shooting that number would be even worse.
It isn't just a Big 10 thing either. Against Syracuse and Florida State the Gophers made a combined three field goals during the last five minutes of those games. In the interest of fairness, the Orange and Seminoles made just two combined.
The schedule couldn't have set up any better for this team. Pitino and his team were given a pass in the Michigan game (which was winnable) and the reality is that they could have/should have been 3-0 to start the Big 10 season.
Absolutely give credit to the Gophers for playing their best basketball for 35 minutes on Sunday, but in the Big 10, it isn't how you start, it's how you finish and the team needs to be better closing out games.
Wolves turn back the clock:
I haven't seen or better heard Target Center like I did Saturday night in the better part of a decade. Rivalries are always made when there is passion and genuine hatred from the fan bases. The good news for the Timberwolves is that it appears as though they've got one brewing with Oklahoma City. The bad news is that if the Thunder are to return to Minneapolis, it won't be until the playoffs.
Pro athletes use different things to motivate themselves. The great ones use the opposing crowds to elevate themselves to a higher level. That is exactly what Kevin Durant did Saturday. He torched the Wolves for 48 points and with each glare at the Wolves bench or smirk after another fourth quarter 3-pointer, the over 18,000 inside the gym grew more agitated.
Durant and the Thunder got the last laugh Saturday. I can't wait until the Thunder return.
The NBA announced that it has rescheduled the Wolves-Spurs game that was supposed to be played in Mexico City to April 8th at Target Center.