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  1. #1

    Default B1G Game 4: Gophers Visit Michigan State (1-9-19)


    Last season, on the heels of two straight loses, Minnesota entered the fourth game of the B1G season 1-2 and facing, this will sound familiar, the Michigan State Spartans. In a season of must have games, the Gophers delivered a total team effort winning 83-77 at Williams Arena. Trailing 23-20 after the first quarter, the Gophers outscored the Spartans 21-13 in the second. The teams matched points the rest of the way. It was a tough, rugged game with Michigan committing 23 turnovers and Minnesota 16.

    The Spartans return almost everyone from that match-up: McCutcheon scored 12, Allen 12, Colley 12, Cooks 11, Hollie 14 and Gaines 10. To this group, this season, the Spartans add touted freshman Nia Clouden. Minnesota was led by Bell 22, Wagner 15, Fernstrom 14, Pitts 8 and Bello 8. Wagner and Fernstrom have graduated and we’ve added Mercedes Staples and, well, Lamke (Annalese did not play in last season’s contest.

    Michigan State’s (1-2) two B1G losses against Northwestern and Indiana were tight, lead changing battles. Facing Northwestern’s zone and occasional press, the Spartans tried to speed up the game and keep the Wildcats from setting up. Still, Northwestern clogged the middle enough to emerge with a 70-62 win.

    The Spartans second loss, at Indiana, is probably more instructive because the Hoosier’s primarily play man defense. And after watching Illinois guards knuckle down in the second half and slicing and dicing the Gopher (1-2) defense on their way to victory, it’s with no little trepidation that we head off to East Lansing facing a team loaded with slice and dice guards whom can also knock down threes. While Illinois ran a lot of offense off a high screen; the Spartans love the horns set featuring two bigs (often Allen and Cookes) at the elbows and a ball handling guard at the top with a lot of options. Indiana did a fairly effective job of mucking up the Spartan options.

    Indiana also did a pretty good job of attacking Michigan State on the right side baseline. Why that worked I’m not sure; but it was obviously a plan. Still, the back and forth game seemingly turned on two plays by Indiana’s Jaylen Penn. With 6 seconds remaining in the first half, Penn took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court passing every Spartan on her way to a buzzer beating layup. Then with 45 seconds remaining in the game Penn launched a long three swishing the Hoosiers to a 65-62 lead that they never relinquished.

    The good news: In B1G play the Spartans are a worse free throw shooting team than Minnesota. MSU ranks 13th (25-41 (.610)) and Minnesota 12th (41-63 (.651)). Unfortunately, Minnesota’s three point shooting is a nearly dormant 14th 9-36 (.250) while MSU is 7th 17-48 (.354). It’s going to take a Syracusan like effort for Minnesota to prevail.

    Injuries: Shay Colley has been battling a knew injury. Colley did not start against Indiana; but did play 21 minutes off the bench.

    Other Note: Minnesota has three players in top ten B1G minutes played: Pitts 39.0, Bell 37.7 and Bellow 37.3.

    B1G win: Iowa 84-70

    B1G loss: @Northwestern 62-70, @ Indiana 64-68.
    Notable non-conference wins: Oregon 88-82, NC State 74-78 (in Cancun)

    Starters (B1G Stats)

    5’5” G Jr Taryn McCutcheon (7 assists versus Iowa)
    6’4” C Sr Jenna Allen 14.7 ppg (20 points and 17 rebounds versus Iowa)
    5’9” G Jr Shay Colley 12.7 ppg (28 points at Northwestern)
    5’8” G Fr Nia Clouden 13.3 ppg (27 points versus Iowa)
    6’0” F So Madrekia Cook (11 points and 7 rebounds versus Indiana)


    6’4” F So Sidney Cooks (12 points and 5 rebounds versus Indiana)
    6’1” F Jr Victoria Gaines
    6’0” F Jr Nia Hollie (10 points and 6 rebounds versus Iowa)

  2. #2


    They got some depth while the Gophers have none that they’re willing to use.

    It might not be a must-win game for the Gophers, but they should go into it with the mindset that is a must-win.

  3. #3


    Agreed not a must win, if anything else need it for a confidence booster. That appears shaky during league play thus far

  4. #4


    No, I didn’t say it’s not a must-win. It could very well turn out to be a must-win depending on your aspirations. But it most definitely should be treated as a must-win.

  5. #5


    I'd say MSU is one of our most formidable opponents this year, along with Maryland, Iowa, Michigan and Syracuse (Illinois was an freak accident, akin to a bad slip and fall on a frozen Minnesota lake). Yet they are definitely beatable with a B1G record of 1-2. They have a much improved Jenna Allen, plus improved returning players, plus solid contributions by rookies. But we have the much improved set of {Bello, Lamke, Brunson} plus Pitts that can be freaky good on any given outing (but a bit unpredictable as to whether she's "on" and the team even unpredictable as to whether they set her up for enough shots). In the last game, unnoticed amongst the carnage, was the very nice trend that Pitts got 5 assists, which if you credit her for those and add her scored points, actually gives her at least a 17 point contribution to that losing effort. Last, but certainly not least among our starters, we have Kenisha Bell and they don't. Bell is making slow but admirable strides toward becoming a solid and consistent-performing balance between unstoppable assister and unstoppable speed-demon/driver-into-the-paint-and-finisher via Keke's "Nike Air Jordan" flying/twisting/turning short jumper methodology (It's a pun on her Twitter handle, get it?).

    I think if we can get at least 4-out-of-5 of our starters "on" for the game, we can beat the Spartans. Hopefully, family and friends of Pitts and the Bellos will be in the audience to cheer for the Gophers. Depending on how the score is going, Whalen and staff either may or may not be able to take advantage of the luxury of giving her starters a few minutes of bench rest in the 3rd quarter, so as to have a less gassed team in the 4th quarter. We'll see - so far there has been a hesitance to go deeper than Staples (at least with Kaposi out) in anything less than a Gopher blowout.

    Last year's home contest against the Spartans was one of the more memorable games for me, and not only because we won it, but due to how we won it. After the game in the on-court (almost impossible to hear due to (still-) inadequate sound system) coach interview, Stallings response to a question like "How do you think you won this game?" had a tone that sounded to me like Marlene was rather incredulous herself, but her actual answer was "Well, we got a lot of rebounds!". Indeed, 37 rebounds (although MSU had 41 rebounds in that game). What Marlene had yet to notice from the box score was the 29 points produced by the post players {Fernstrom, T. Bello, Edwards, Kaposi}. This was the first game in which the posts (normally one at a time) were "shooting heroes" as well as rebounders. I can appreciate Stallings' incredulity, since on the face of it, it did seem somewhat miraculous. What had happened was that both Wagner and Pitts had gotten in foul trouble, and had to see significant bench time. Wagner played 26 minutes and Pitts played 25 minutes.

    To fill in that playing-time gap, it was "next woman up" and the next best players were all posts. So for 1/3 of that game, Stallings was forced (much against her will, I would guess) to play 2 posts and 3 guards, instead of a 1-post 4-guard system. I claim that's what won that game for us. The extra post points plus the extra post rebounds. Unfortunately, in subsequent games, Stallings reverted to a full-time 4-guard system, and I sometimes found myself almost wishing that some guard(s) would get in foul trouble to force Marlene to play a mixed system that could lead us to victory. The good news is that Whalen plays a 3-guard/2-post system most of the time with a mixture of some 4-guard/1-post as needed or to mix it up. I claim that's the right mix to play MSU. That mix (including its rebounding advantages) "enables" the win over the Spartans. The remaining requirement to actually implement the win is probably that at least 4 out of 5 of our shooters need to be "on" (mostly to offset the lack of Wagner and the probable lack of Hubbard). So other than the fact that the Spartans have home-court advantage, I'm pretty optimistic about this game.
    Last edited by CutDownTheNet; 01-08-2019 at 02:29 PM.

  6. #6


    They need more minutes from Garido Perez and Staples. Perhaps the Khinde Bello sister also. You could see Lamke and Pitts were seriously winded in the 4th quarter with all the minutes they have been playing. Pitts needs to continue to drive to the basket off those isolation three plays and ball screens. She is good off those mid range drives where she pops shot off of that. This and follow her shot more like Bell does.

    Sent from my SM-J327P using Tapatalk

  7. #7


    It's easy to follow your shot when you take 20+ per game and many are drives out of control into triple teams.

    Lamke is always winded. It's borderline insane to compare her conditioning to that of Pitts, though.

    Of the starters, Pitts, Bell, Bello, and Brunson COULD go all game and have been for most of this season.

    No idea why the other Bello sister does not play more. She is 2-3x the athlete Lamke is, in better shape, and can run up and down the court. I mean, her twin sister nearly leads the NCAA in rebounding... genetically, they have got to be at least closer in similarity than Lamke is to Taiye.

  8. #8


    Lamke is almost always winded, except for the first 3 minutes of every stint. It's no accident that they go to her early and often to start out the game. It goes with the territory for players like her and Bry Fernstrom, who had the same issue, you might recall. It's simply a matter of body type having more muscle mass, along with simple physics (more mass to move, more energy needed, more oxygen needed, not proportionately more oxygen stored in blood nor lung capacity). But credit Lamke for working extremely hard in the weight room to improve her endurance this year. In fact, she likes working out so much, that I heard she might make a career out of helping others do so. But in the Big Ten you almost always need a center with her muscle and immovable post presence for some portion of the game (preferably in conjunction with a skinnier, more agile rebound-aholic like T. Bello, or for that matter K. Bello). But fortunately, we can survive with Annalese doing her mandatory periodic catch-your-breath stint on the bench once in a while, during which the more svelte and less muscular Kaposi will do thanks to her good rebounding and dependable layups. Before her injury, Tomancova was the preferred sub since she has a more muscular body type.

    If Kaposi is still out with an unspecified (and hopefully not serious) injury, I would personally not hesitate to put in Kehinde Bello for Annalese's bench minutes. Especially in front of her parents - let's challenge her! Admittedly, K. Bello is behind T. Bello by X years in basketball development and overall comfort in handling the ball. I estimate X was about 2 years last year, but may be as low as 1 year right now. In other words, this year's K. Bello might be approximately = to last year's T. Bello (but the coaches might have a better estimate for X). Kehinde will almost certainly play next year, and I for one am looking forward to the prospect of our opponents either having to face "dueling Bellos," or else, having worked hard to get T. Bello in foul trouble, then have to face the slightly lesser K. Bello. Kehinde also had a growth spurt and is now almost an inch taller than either her sister or Kaposi - and same height as Lamke. That height could be useful going up against Allen. And for both MSU and Iowa games, the following principle might be useful - let Kehinde absorb what otherwise might be Taiye or Annalese fouls against Allen or Gustafson. Maybe we can have Kehinde play tough in the paint and get Allen or Gustafson, respectively, to foul out without Annalese or Taiye getting in foul trouble, and then the latter can clean house on rebounds and put backs (and Kehinde, if you fouled out in the process, then you sacrificed yourself for a good cause). So the next two games might be a good time for a stress test on Kehinde, to see if she can be on-court with good rebounding and minimal turnovers and maybe some putback baskets and/or assists, at least long enough to give Lamke a couple 4-minute breathers.
    Last edited by CutDownTheNet; 01-08-2019 at 07:16 PM.

  9. #9


    I wasn't ripping Lamke or comparing her conditioning to Pitts. Just hinting at the fact I hope coaching staff can manage minutes. Lamke she is one player that has improved a tremendous amount just from last season to this. I have been beyond impressed with her effort and play this season, Lamke is a glue player that battles her butt off. They both seemed a little gassed against Illinois on Sunday, seems like that caused the Illini to grab some rebounds and block some shots they normally would have. Pitts hit some mid range jumpers early off some drives, would like to see her do more of that, hit those short jumpers, a little less pick and pop from 3.

    Sent from my SM-J327P using Tapatalk
    Last edited by gopherdudepart2; 01-08-2019 at 09:01 PM.

  10. #10

  11. #11


    For what it's worth: Kaposi, Tomancova and Hubbard (somewhat) participating in shoot around.

  12. #12


    Would be nice if we could get Kaposi back for the game tonight even if only for a minute or two each time on the floor.

  13. #13


    Nice bucket by Palma!

  14. #14


    I had some trouble getting BTN Plus to work. Just picked it up before the break. Why is Kaposi in for T Bello? We are down 11-7

  15. #15


    Wow how many traveling calls already? Too many unforced TO, GRR...

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