B1G Game 3: Gophers @ Nebraska (1-4-20)

Ignatius L Hoops

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Same Problem; Different Solutions.

After winning their first conference outings, both Minnesota (1-1) and Nebraska (1-1) are coming off late game losses giving up leads of 7 points (Minnesota) and 9 points (Nebraska). However, Lindsay Whalen and Amy Williams’ are likely taking different approaches to getting back on the winning track-post play for the Huskers and the guard play for the Gophers.

Nebraska Non-Conference:

The Husker’s were 10-1 in the non-conference season playing a schedule whose RPI strength was 311. Obviously, it was one of the nation’s weakest non-con schedules:

Wins: Alabama A&M 68-46; @Missouri 90-85 (OT); Morgan State 78-55; SIUE 63-49; Southern 73-39; (N) Southern Cal 67-54; (N) Sacred Heart 72-49; Duke 83-79; Oral Roberts; 77-67; and Manhatten 71-51.

Loss: Creighton 74-79.

And it may be a strong argument in favor of weak schedules. Out of the Big Ten gate, the Husker’s defeated their almost mirror image rivals Iowa Hawkeyes in Lincoln 78-69. Then, late in a grinding game at Michigan State, the Husker’s held a nine point lead before succumbing to the Spartans 78-70.

Iowa versus Nebraska:

Nebraska, like Iowa, feature rugged post play and streak shooting tricky guards. It was a heavy weight battle in the paint. Nebraska 6’5” Center, Kate Cain’s 32 minutes, 16 points and 12 rebounds matched Iowa’s Monika Czinano’s, 34 minutes 16 points and 17 rebounds.

At the four, the Huskers got good performances out of Ashtyn Veerbeek (5 points) and Leigha Brown (who led Nebraska in scoring during the non-conference season had 10 points); but it was Aussie Isabelle Bourne who provided an eight point (two threes and a layup), three rebound, 1:20 minute spurt sparking the Huskers mid-way through the second quarter.

Hawkeye and former Husker, Kathleen Doyle, much to the delight of the Lincoln crowd found a seat on the Hawkeye bench after picking up two quick fouls in the first four minutes. Doyle scored 19 points but it wasn’t enough to offset Nebraska’s guard output (Whitish 11 points, Haiby 10 and Nicea 12). And the Huskers were quick enough to slow down the Hawkeye transition.

Michigan State versus Nebraska

In the Husker loss at Michigan State, the Spartans attacked Cain early and slowed down the Husker guards. Haiby led Nebraska with 19 but I think 15 of those were in the first half. More important, MSU dominated the rebounding 53-35 (especially in the second half) and held the Husker’s to 2-17 from three. As a bonus, Nebraska also struggled from the line 16-26.

Minnesota versus Nebraska:

In the game we care about on Saturday, the Minnesota and Nebraska match-ups are simple. Taiye Bello battles Kate Cain at center. Destiny Pitts battles a slew of Huskers (Veerbeck, Brown and Bourne) at the four. And then it’s guards versus the guards. Last season Taiye Bello in 34 minutes had 7 points and thirteen rebounds outdoing Kate Cain who posted 4 points and 0 rebounds in 23 minutes. Pitts in 37 minutes scored 10 points and fouled out while Veerbeek(17 minutes) scored 6 and Brown (16 minutes) 9 points.

Unfortunately, last season’s Minnesota/Nebraska game in Lincoln resembled the afore mentioned battle between the Spartans and Huskers with a better outcome for Nebraska. Trailing for much of the game, Nebraska went to a 1-3-1 zone and Minnesota’s guards melted. A 50-41 Gopher lead with seven minutes remaining was swept away. After back to back threes, Nebraska tied the score at 57 with 3:30 remaining. Then, it got worse. Minnesota committed four turnovers down the stretch helping Nebraska close out a 63-57 victory. Of note for you two post fans; Last season Lindsay Whalen started both Taiye Bello and Annalese Lamke who had 10 points and 7 rebounds in 36 minutes.

Injuries: Taylor Kissinger is out for the year with a hip injury suffered in mid-December requiring surgery.



Iowa at Nebraska Highlights:




Probable Starters (With B1G Stats):

HgtPosClPlayerMinPtsReb
5’9”GSoSam Haiby23.014.53.0
6’5”CJrKate Cain33.013.013.0
6’2”FSoAshtyn Veerbeck22.55.52.5
6’1”GSrEliely Nicea31.013.03.0
5’9”GSrHannah Whitish34.08.52.5


The Bench (With B1G Stats):

HgtPosClPlayerMinPtsReb
6’1”FSoLeigha Brown26.010.04.5
5’5”GSrKristian Hudson2.03.00.0
6’2”FFrIsabelle Bourne15.54.05.0
6’2”G/FSrGrace Mitchell4.00.0.5
6’3”FSoKayla Merson9,51.51.0
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Senior guard Hannah Whitish leads the Huskers with 23 three-pointers on 32 percent shooting. Leigha Brown and Sam Haiby have each made 11 from beyond the arc.

Williams feels like Nebraska has capable three-point shooters, and plenty of other ways to score, too. Nebraska ranks No. 6 in the league in scoring at 74.2 points per game.

“I think we’re going to be just fine if we just have everybody that’s currently available to play just does what they’re capable of,” Williams said. “We have plenty of other players that are capable of scoring from beyond the arc and attacking the basket, creating offense for themselves and for others. We don’t feel like anybody needs to try and really step up and step outside themselves and try and bring something to the table that they’re not capable of."
Balanced offense:
Just like last season, Nebraska has a very balanced attack. Through 13 games, six players have led the Huskers in scoring for at least one game. Brown has been the leading scorer four times, Haiby three times, Kate Cain and Whitish two times apiece and Nicea Eliely and Kissinger once each.

“We always want our goal at Nebraska to be very versatile and to be able to have a lot of different people that can step up and make plays, and any given night you really don’t know who is going to be the one to step up and go off,” Williams said.
 

CutDownTheNet

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As we go into our third Big-Ten game @Nebraska, there are still only three groups in the Big-Ten Rankings (shown below with their overall winning percentages for full season thus far, including non-conf games) ...

Tied for First Place - The Undefeated 2-and-0s:
Northwestern (.923), #14 Indiana (.857), Purdue (.786)

Battling in the Crowded Middle Ground - The 1-and-1s:
#24 Minnesota (.846), Nebraska (.846), Rutgers (.846), #12 Maryland (.769), Iowa (.769), Michigan (.769), Ohio State (.615), Michigan State (.615)

Tied for Last Place - The Not-Won-a-Game-Yet 0-and-2s:
Illinois (.692), Wisconsin (.615), Penn State (.462)

We will see whether it's Minnesota or Nebraska that is "movin on up" in the world of the Big Ten.

Here's some interesting pre-game season-to-date statistics for some players from either Nebraska or Minnesota. (equivalent to means the player has insufficient data to qualify for that spot on the NCAA rankings, but that would be their ranking if they had enough data)

Points/Game
Pitts 17.08 - #67 in NCAA
Brown (Neb) 14.0 - #250 in NCAA
T. Bello 12.85
Hubbard 11.77
Haiby (Neb) 11.3
Scalia 10.92
Cain (Neb) 10.5
Powell 9.15
Eliely (Neb) 8.9
Veerbeek (Neb) 8.7
Brunson 8.54
Kissinger (Neb) 8.4
Whitish (Neb) 7.8
Bourne (Neb) 4.6

(Note: Similar to Ohio State game, Nebraska has 8 significant players while Minnesota has 6 significant players. Our bench depth is shorter than theirs.)

FG% (combined 2s and 3s - but typically no 3s in the case of posts)
Sconiers .667 (10-15) - equivalent to #6 in NCAA
K. Bello .667 (8-12) - equivalent to #6 in NCAA
T. Bello .612 (63-103) - #15 in NCAA (mistakenly does not appear on NCAA site)
Cain (Neb) .569 - #34 in NCAA (mistakenly does not appear on NCAA site)
Haiby (Neb) .481 - equivalent to #124 in NCAA
Veerbeek (Neb) .480 - equivalent to #124 in NCAA
Scalia .477 (53-111) - equivalent to #128 in NCAA
Eliely (Neb) .455 - equivalent to #163 in NCAA
Adashchyk .433 (13-30) - equivalent to #199 in NCAA
Brown (Neb) .431 - equivalent to #202 in NCAA
Bourne (Neb) 431 - equivalent to #202 in NCAA
Kissinger (Neb) .424 - equivalent to #216 in NCAA
Pitts .402 (68-169)
Hubbard .395 (51-129)
Brunson .388 (45-116)
Powell .368 (39-106)
Whitish (Neb) .361

3P%
Pitts .467 (42-90) - #15 in NCAA
Scalia .451 (23-51) - equivalent to #28 in NCAA
Adashchyk .444 (4-9) - equivalent to #33 in NCAA
Hubbard .406 (28-69) - #64 in NCAA
Veerbeek (Neb) .381 - equivalent to #98 in NCAA
Kissinger (Neb) .370 - equivalent to #111 in NCAA
Haiby (Neb) .333 - equivalent to #160 in NCAA
Whitish (Neb) .324 - equivalent to #170 in NCAA
Brown (Neb) .289
Brunson .267 (4-15)
Bourne (Neb) .214
Powell .191 (4-21)

2P%
Sconiers .667 (10-15)
K. Bello .667 (8-12)
T. Bello .612 (63-103)
Scalia .500 (30-60)
Adashchyk .429 (9-21)
Powell .412 (35-85)
Brunson .406 (41-101)
Hubbard .383 (23-60)
Pitts .329 (26-79)

FT%
Scalia .867 (13-15) - equivalent to #27 in NCAA
Pitts .846 (44-52) - #46 in NCAA
Brunson .810 (17-21) - equivalent to #93 in NCAA
Haiby (Neb) .791 - #137 in NCAA
Brown (Neb) .768 - #178 in NCAA
Bourne (Neb) .765 - equivalent to #186 in NCAA
T. Bello .745 (41-55) - #211 in NCAA
Hubbard .742 (23-31) - equivalent to #220 in NCAA
Veerbeek (Neb) .727 - equivalent to #243 in NCAA
Eliely (Neb) .676
Cain (Neb) .619

Offensive Reb/Game
T. Bello 4.46 - #12 in NCAA
Eliely (Neb) 2.00
Cain (Neb) 1.92
Bourne (Neb) 1.92
Brown (Neb) 1.62
Mershon (Neb) 1.38
Scalia 1.23
Veerbeek (Neb) 1.23

(Note: Nebraska apparently uses a Gang Offensive Rebounding approach for 10.07 offensive rebounds per game. In contrast, Minnesota has one of the best offensive rebounders in Taiye, but adding in Scalia we get 5.69 rebounds per game (with insignificant contributions by others). We may need more post support to get sufficient offensive rebounds, or it could be a problem. Or else Taiye may have to rebound her heart out.)

Defensive Reb/Game
T. Bello 5.92
Cain (Neb) 5.31
Pitts 4.23
Veerbeek (Neb) 4.08
Whitish (Neb) 3.23
Scalia 3.00
Bourne (Neb) 2.85
Hubbard 2.62
Eliely (Neb) 2.62
Brunson 2.38
Powell 2.23
Haiby (Neb) 2.08
Brown (Neb) 2.00

Total Reb/Game
T. Bello 10.38 - #21 in NCAA
Cain (Neb) 7.23 - #208 in NCAA
Veerbeek (Neb) 5.31
Pitts 4.85
Bourne (Neb) 4.77
Eliely (Neb) 4.62
Scalia 4.23
Brown (Neb) 3.62
Whitish (Neb) 3.38
Hubbard 3.08
Brunson 3.00
Haiby (Neb) 2.92
Powell 2.46
Mershon (Neb) 2.46

Assist to Turnover Ratio
Brown (Neb) 2.25 - equivalent to #40 in NCAA
Powell 2.10 - #59 in NCAA
Hubbard 2.00 - equivalent to #70 in NCAA
Whitish (Neb) 1.89 - #94 in NCAA
Brunson 1.71 - #129 in NCAA
Eliely 1.67
Scalia 1.44
Pitts 1.10
Haiby (Neb) 1.09

Assists/Game
Whitish (Neb) 3.92 - #113 in NCAA
Pitts 3.54
Powell 3.38
Brunson 3.15
Haiby (Neb) 2.77
Eliely (Neb) 2.69
Brown (Neb) 2.08
Scalia 1.77
Hubbard 1.54

Steals/Game
Hubbard 2.00 - #148 in NCAA
Scalia 1.77 - a little worse than #250 in NCAA
Brunson 1.70
Haiby (Neb) 1.38
Powell 1.31
Whitish (Neb) 1.15
Eliely (Neb) 1.13
T. Bello 1.15
Pitts 1.08

Blocks/Game
Cain (Neb) 2.92 - #13 in NCAA
T. Bello 2.31 - #26 in NCAA
 
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CutDownTheNet

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We’re just getting out-heighted. Huskers scoring at will in the post. Almost every Taiye shot getting blocked. We better get hot from 3.
 

GringaGopher

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Really ugly 1/2. They are keying on Pitts and we are not shooting well. Like the move that Taiye did to make their slow big move as she has the foot speed advantage.
 

CutDownTheNet

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That’s right Ty, back door cut and start in the high post so you can dribble around em.
 

GringaGopher

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Bellow now running n traveling to the basket. Still, she needs to keep Cain moving.
 

GringaGopher

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NB just drove for an easy lay up as we stood around watching her. Not a great effort today . I love that Powell takes it to the rim but she has to start converting more of those drives into points. We lose by 14 and probably drop out of the top 25.
 

whalenfan

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Really poor shooting and Cain dominating down low were the story here. Nebraska played well but teams with good bigs are gonna give the Gophers trouble all year.
 

Katogopher

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Small ball just doesn’t cut it in the BIG unless you can shoot lights out. I understand the game plan going after Cain but it wasn’t working. Pitts has morphed into Bell late in games.
 

Gophers112233

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play Sconiers I know she is a raw... but at least she will be here next year.. I have no clue why K Bello gets minutes.. we play 4 on 5 when she is out there.. defensively she is nowhere near Ty's defense..abilities and same on offense..

I also don't get why the TWO freshman are the only one who attack more then anyone else.. .
 

CutDownTheNet

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play Sconiers I know she is a raw... but at least she will be here next year.. I have no clue why K Bello gets minutes.. we play 4 on 5 when she is out there.. defensively she is nowhere near Ty's defense..abilities and same on offense..

I also don't get why the TWO freshman are the only one who attack more then anyone else.. .
You’re totally wrong about Kehinde. She is no Taiye so she won’t score nearly as much. But didn’t you notice that when Kehinde came in as Whalen played the twin towers side by side for a while, we immediately scored a quick 6 points in 2 minutes. The word of the day is “rebounds.” Kehinde grabbed 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of playing time.

We were outrebounded 48-31. Game over, right there, unless Pitts shoots 70%. Which she can do on occasion, but you can’t ask for that every game. Kehinde with Taiye is a good combination. Klarke with Taiye is also a good combination. You will see Whay use both. Use either config for a longer time against big opponents, and we don’t have a 17 rebound deficit. And we have a fighting chance to win a game w/o super-human shooting.

So stop all the Kehinde bashing. She has a role to play. Not a double double role, but a rebounding and a few points role.
 

bbwannabe

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I agree. Then we can sub our guards so they can get some rest. I would imagine that some other plays could be developed to open people up.
 

Gophers112233

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You’re totally wrong about Kehinde. She is no Taiye so she won’t score nearly as much. But didn’t you notice that when Kehinde came in as Whalen played the twin towers side by side for a while, we immediately scored a quick 6 points in 2 minutes. The word of the day is “rebounds.” Kehinde grabbed 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of playing time.

We were outrebounded 48-31. Game over, right there, unless Pitts shoots 70%. Which she can do on occasion, but you can’t ask for that every game. Kehinde with Taiye is a good combination. Klarke with Taiye is also a good combination. You will see Whay use both. Use either config for a longer time against big opponents, and we don’t have a 17 rebound deficit. And we have a fighting chance to win a game w/o super-human shooting.

So stop all the Kehinde bashing. She has a role to play. Not a double double role, but a rebounding and a few points role.

she also has the worst +/- on the team.. she doesn't provided offense at all.. so when she is on the court we play 4 on 5.. sure she rebounds and that's all.. sorry but i just dont get why she gets the minutes.. play Klarke.. she has more upside..
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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The No. 24 Gophers missed 19 of their first 23 shots, and quickly an 11-point deficit and a raucous Pinnacle Bank Arena were staring Lindsay Whalen’s squad directly in the face.

In those first 10 minutes, Nebraska (12-2, 2-1) also didn’t make the turnovers that the Gophers have typically created in their opponents. Whalen’s team had forced an average of 18.4 turnovers per game coming in, but the Huskers committed a lowly two in the first half.
Emphasis added.

The play by play is an ugly read. We've really stopped moving the ball and we are ending up with rushed or forced shots. For the game the Gophers were 23 of 73. In the post game Whalen said she would likely go with more Kehinde to match-up with other teams bigs. I think that will be of little use until we reestablish the offensive movement.

Minutes Played:

39 Pitts
32 Hubbard
30 Taiye Bello
27 Scalia
26 Powell
25 Brunson
16 Kehinde Bello
5 Adashchyk
 

bball_craz_26

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The last two losses showed the two mentalities teams are going to take.

1. Let Pitts go off and stop the rest
Ohio state did this and not enough help came from others.
2. Focus on stopping Pitts and make someone else beat you.
Nebraska clearly made her the focus. Yes Taiye put up 16, and Hubbard 10 but without Pitts giving 20+ it’s not going to be enough.

Gophers have had single digit assists the last two games each. To be successful gophers need at least four players. If Pitts is 20 per game, need at least 3 others with 12-18 points. If Pitts held to 10-15, the other 3 need 15-19 points.

I agree not playing Sconiers not playing doesn’t make sense. Size has killed us the last two games. (Doesn’t help that Cain’s size was doubly difficult with officials letting some of her fouls go uncalled) but gophers need two posts, at least for 10-15 minutes a game.
 

whalenfan

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The last two losses showed the two mentalities teams are going to take.

1. Let Pitts go off and stop the rest
Ohio state did this and not enough help came from others.
2. Focus on stopping Pitts and make someone else beat you.
Nebraska clearly made her the focus. Yes Taiye put up 16, and Hubbard 10 but without Pitts giving 20+ it’s not going to be enough.

Gophers have had single digit assists the last two games each. To be successful gophers need at least four players. If Pitts is 20 per game, need at least 3 others with 12-18 points. If Pitts held to 10-15, the other 3 need 15-19 points.

I agree not playing Sconiers not playing doesn’t make sense. Size has killed us the last two games. (Doesn’t help that Cain’s size was doubly difficult with officials letting some of her fouls go uncalled) but gophers need two posts, at least for 10-15 minutes a game.
Playing 2 bigs with either Brunson or Powell puts 3 players on the floor that cant shoot and spacing is terrible. I know today when they went double posts they scored 6 straight pts but then they gave up like 7 straight. Its a tough situation, especially when the bigs struggle to score. This team needs to find ways to create turnovers and get into transition more where they are deadly.
 

CutDownTheNet

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she also has the worst +/- on the team.. she doesn't provided offense at all.. so when she is on the court we play 4 on 5.. sure she rebounds and that's all.. sorry but i just dont get why she gets the minutes.. play Klarke.. she has more upside..
The fact that her +/- is low merely reflects the fact that Taiye is not playing (since up til now they’ve played mostly one at a time). When Sconiers subs for Taiye, it’s probably approximately equally low.

+/- is a nearly useless statistic. If either Klarke or Kehinde have a low +/- then that merely means that Taiye is better than them both (probably on both offense and defense, but only to a lesser extent on rebounding).

That being said (and this part is mostly speculation), I think Klarke might be a bit more physical on defense (which I think could be good in various scenarios), and has maybe a slightly more accurate shot from the paint, while Kehinde shoots slightly better from distance (not that that happens very much). Kehinde’s best offense is off from rebound putbacks and dump-off feeds from either penetrating guards or her sister.

And even if Kehinde is not quite at par with her sister on defense, there are other factors like experience and effort. A couple games ago, she made a spectacular diving-out-of-bounds (heading towards landing on her face) save featuring a mid-air bullet pass back to a guard for a three-point make. That’s assist of the year, in my book.

Anyway, I think both Sconiers and K. Bello will get playing time, and rightly so. They both have something to contribute. I’m assuming Cumming is recovering from a nagging injury since we haven’t seen her yet, but she can contribute too when ready.

Speaking of dump-off feeds, we need a lot more of that. Agreeing with other comments, our offense has become stagnated and slow and side to side again (like against Missouri State) and not downhill toward the basket. We did get some good to-the-basket moves by Pitts today, but Powell and Brunson are most adept at penetrating into the paint (with Scalia getting better at this as well). But lately, against tougher and taller defenses, the resulting shots seem more off-balance, perhaps a defense against getting blocked. If we can get some coordination between guard penetration and Taiye/Kehinde/Klarke peeling toward the hoop on the opposite side for a dump-off and a layup, that would be good.
 

CutDownTheNet

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Really poor shooting and Cain dominating down low were the story here. Nebraska played well but teams with good bigs are gonna give the Gophers trouble all year.
Some notes on offense, defense, turnover margin, rebounds, and small ball versus double posts ...

Clearly, there were several aspects to the Gophers coming up short in Nebraska (and similarly versus Ohio State). At Nebraska, generating offense was a real problem.

> Really poor shooting ... were the story here. (@whalenfan)

> For the game the Gophers were 23 of 73 ... (@Ignatius L Hoops)

We started out OK with a pair of NBA-length triples by Scalia and Hubbard. Three-point shooting after that was 1-1 by Brunson, 1-7 by Hubbard, 1-5 by Pitts, and 0-4 by Scalia. Overall, 5-18 or .278 - compared to pre-game 3-point shooting of .406, .451 and .467 for Hubbard, Scalia and Pitts.

By comparison, Nebraska stole a page from our playbook, and Hannah Whitish (especially) started shooting NBA threes (5-8), with threes by Sam Haiby (3-5) and others for a total of 10-19. Up to that point, Whitish and Haiby had shot .324 and .333 from deep. Home court shooting luck (and vice Versa for the Gophers)? I suspect that part of the problem was that we didn’t respect their deep three shots, and so didn’t go out to pick them up (as in, we thought only Pitts and Hubbard and Scalia were allowed to shoot NBA threes). In any event, a 15-point deficit on three-point scores for the Gophers, who normally excel in that department.

On two-pointers, we were 18-55 (.327) - not very good either. The Huskers were 17-42 (.405). Our shooting was definitely below our normal proficiency.

Just a guess, but I suspect that strong Nebraska defense made our shooting sub-par. They seemed able to shift fast and match-up to our shooters at the three-point line. Mostly, that suppressed our deep shots for not being open and/or tall defenders. The threes we did take seemed rushed. That 4-point play by Pitts was nearly blocked. Our deep shooting works best when we get wide open looks. We had similar issues against better Missouri State defense and 2nd half against Penn State.

> The Gophers missed 19 of their first 23 shots ... (STrib)

We had only 3 field goals and two free throws in the first quarter. That’s 3 made and 12 missed field-goal attempts in the first quarter for .200 shooting.

Our 4th made jumper comes at 9:08 in 2Q, and our 5th make comes at 5:52 on our 9th shot of the quarter. Thus (as the STrib says) just before 5:52 we had taken 23 total shots and made only four for .174 shooting (the one at 5:52 being the 5th make). We had 12 points (including 2 free throws) in the first 14 minutes of the game, and then we got out 14th point.

This was due to strong Husker defense as well, much of it in the form of blocks or steals.

Pre-game, Kate Cain was averaging 2.94 blocks per game (#13 in NCAA), whereas T. Bello averaged 2.31 (#26 in NCAA). Taiye got 2 blocks, plus one by Kehinde. Cain got 6 blocks in this game, with two more by others for 8 total Husker blocks.

During the first 14 minutes (the interval where we made 4 shots out of 23 attempts), Cain made 4 blocks on T Bello and one on Pitts, and Eliely blocked Powell once. So 6 of those initial 19 missed shots were actually blocked shots. Those shots were pretty much bunnies that otherwise go in, so that’s 12 lost points in 14 minutes of play. Nebraska got the rebound after each series of blocks (twice we got blocked two times in a row). The actual score was 12-23 after those initial 14 minutes. Without those Nebraska blocks, the 14-minute score would have been a respectable 24-23 for a 2-point Gopher lead. Without those blocks, our initial 4 makes and 19 misses would have been 10 makes and 13 misses for a rather normal .435 shooting. (Minnesota had no blocks during that time, our 3 blocks came later.)

So it was mostly the 3-inch height difference between T Bello and Cain that put us in a hole during the first 1.4 quarters. The 12 points lost to blocks in the first 14 minutes accounts for all but two of the 14 points by which we lost. Taiye has good vertical, but Cain was just too much.

Plus, Taiye was contending against 6’2” Veerbeek along with 6’5” Cain for rebounds. Through the Ohio State game, Taiye has averaged 4.46 offensive rebounds per game (#12 in NCAA) versus Cain’s 1.92; and 5.92 defensive rebounds per game versus Cain’s 5.31. At Nebraska, T Bello’s rebounds were cut to 5 - half the usual number. 4 of these were offensive (the usual), but only 1 defensive. Cain got 4 offensive and 11 defensive rebounds. That’s a +10 rebounding margin on Cain vs T Bello alone. Again, Taiye can outrebound 6’3” posts, but against 6’5” she needs post help.

For the whole teams it was 50-38 Nebraska over Minnesota on rebounds. A +12 rebounding margin for Nebraska. (Different from what I reported before, since the Live Stats available at that time did not include Team rebounds. By the way, I suspect Taiye might have been cheated out of a double-double or two by crediting some of her rebounds to Team.)

Minnesota is used to outrebounding it’s opponents, thanks to T Bello’s league- and NCAA-leading efforts. But the Gopher rebounding deficit in this game was another big contributor to lack of offensive point production (lack of offensive rebounds and Gopher second chance points) and hampering our defense against Nebraska points (lack of defensive rebounds, and thus extra Husker second chance points). In the end, the Gophers got 9 second-chance points to Nebraska’s 11. That’s not as bad as it could have been; yet, with the 12-rebound deficit moving the line on second-chance points, we could have gotten as much as +6 delta Gopher points (and -6 Husker points) if rebounding had been as much as tied (let alone if the Gophers had won the rebounding battle).

We could be conservative and estimate a +6 to the scoring delta (instead of the feasible +12). But add that to +12 that we could have gotten if we had avoided the blocks, and we see that adding more height to the Gopher equation, such as to nullify both the points lost to the rebounding deficit and nullify the points lost to blocks, would have been enough for the Gophers to have won the game. But the facts are counter to that: It just wasn’t possible to throw one 6’2” Bello against a 6’5” Cain and a 6’2” Veerbeek without enabling both a lot of Husker blocks as well as a Gopher rebound deficit.

Another contributing factor to the loss was turnovers versus steals. The Gophers are used to getting a lot of steals, and in general causing the opponent to out-turnover us. Plus fast breaks off those opponent turnovers. In the end, the Huskers did out-turnover the Gophers 16-10; and we did get 5 more points off turnovers than they did. But what hurt us is that they only had a couple turnovers in the first half - which, by lack of our usual points off turnovers, helped put us in a first-half hole and made it an uphill battle. Furthermore, in those first 14 minutes - as analyzed above and by the STrib - the Gophers had 3 turnovers (of our 10 for the game). That’s three less possessions, and cost us an expected 3 points or so.

So between the not-as-high-as-usual turnover margin, and the (negative) not-as-good-as-usual rebounding margin, and the shocking number of points lost to blocks, that by itself is enough to explain the Gopher loss. The blocks were all against two-point shots, and (along with off-balance shots to avoid blocks) are sufficient to explain the poor two-point shooting. But add to that the poor three-point shooting, and the Minnesota fate was pretty much sealed.

Add to that some poor defense. On several occasions, we let them drive full court uncontested for a layup - and it wasn’t even a fast break. Or they brought it up uncontested and either dumped it off or lobbed it ahead to a post for a layup. Much of this was toward the end of the game. Tiredness again?

In a case or two, K Bello was unable to stop such post scoring after feed from uncontested guard, and some might want to blame her, but these points were lost by the guards, long before the ball reached the post. As I’ve already argued, if anything, Kehinde was a defensive hero in this game by chalking up 2 steals, 1 block and 6 rebounds (e.g., 9 defensive acts) in 16 minutes (that’s one every 1.8 minutes). The rest of the team logged 40 defensive acts in 184 minutes of cumulative playing time (that’s one every 4.6 minutes per player, on average).

> Small ball just doesn’t cut it in the BIG unless you can shoot lights out (@Katogopher)

One major strength of the Gopher team is our guards. That includes stealing capability, fast-break capability, two-point scoring capability, even (especially lately) rebounding capability, but especially three-point shooting capability. Our best three-point shooters average near 45% accuracy - one of the best deep-shooting trios in the NCAA.

We just had a bad day shooting at Nebraska. We didn’t shoot the lights out - far from it. We also got outrebounded and had our shots stuffed by the significantly taller Huskers.

Another Gopher strength is power forward (but mostly played at the 5 slot) T Bello. Her post skills exceed most posts in the NCAA and she’s an NCAA leader in offensive rebounding and double-doubles. She’s also a notch or three better than the other Gopher posts.

It is therefore blatantly obvious that the Gophers should start Taiye plus our top three shooters (Pitts, Hubbard, Scalia) plus point guard (Brunson, spelled by Powell). We have gone with 4 guards plus 1 post for virtually all minutes of all games, except for some flirting with a double-post configuration against the weakest non-conf opponents - just to get a bit of experience in it.

Our experience against Nebraska demonstrates that we need to deploy a two-post/three-guard configuration for at least part of the total 40 minutes, against the taller of the tough Big-Ten teams. For those good/big teams we can’t give up a big height differential for the whole game, or else lack of rebounds plus blocks by the opponent will virtually guarantee our defeat - with the one exception that if we absolutely shoot the lights out, then we can salvage the win.

An example of the latter is the first half, versus the second half of the Penn State game. In the first half we truly shot the lights out and gained a huge lead. In the second half we shot more normally but with not as good defense, and we burned up most of that lead - nearly losing to a weaker Big-Ten team that nevertheless had somewhat of a height advantage in us.

In the Ohio State game against another tall/strong Big-Ten team, we shot fairly well but did not shoot the lights out - but we seemingly tired out and fell apart in the 4th quarter, just in time to lose the lead by the buzzer.

Small-ball (4 guards + 1 post) worked for 2 shoot-the-lights-out quarters against the somewhat tall Penn State, and then it didn’t. Small ball worked for 3.5 quarters against the tall Ohio State, and then it didn’t. Small ball didn’t work at all against the very tall Nebraska since we shot the opposite of “lights out” and they blocked the crap out of us as well as outrebounded us.

So we need to play two posts for some fraction of the 40 minutes against any Big-Ten team with any height - with the possible exception of the very worst teams. The fraction depends on how tall and how good the opponent is. But we still always want to start out with our small-ball starters. We hope to strike first and build up a lead. The more lights-out our shooters are, the more we can stay with that configuration. The lousier our shooters are (relative to our opponent), the sooner we need to rotate into two posts and the more time we must spend in two posts. Hopefully we can build up leads via small ball and then maintain/protect leads with two posts (during which time we also give our guards some rest). We might also build up leads with two posts, if our posts are rebounding and shooting well.

Is there any way we can prove this? Well, not easily since we mostly have only the above anecdotal evidence at this point. But maybe we could look at the little hard evidence that we do have.

Of the 16 minutes that Kehinde played in the Nebraska game, only 5.5 minutes were played alongside her sister in a two-post configuration (with the rest subbing for Taiye). So we literally only have 5.5 minutes of evidence as to how a two-post system compares to a small-ball system against a tall Big-Ten team.

The Bellos played side-by-side double posts from 3Q-2:44 through 4Q-7:12, a total of 5:32 or roughly 5.5 minutes. During this time, the score deficit improved by 1 point. Not a dramatic improvement, but after normalizing by extrapolating to a 40-minute game, that’s a +6.3 points per game for the double-post system for this particular game against a very tall team, in which we shot poorly. Against the same tall team with our same poor shooting, we had a -15 scoring differential over 34.5 minutes. After normalizing, we get a -17.4 points per game for the small ball system (again, we should repeat, under poor shooting circumstances).

That’s a total per-game “system +/-“ of +23.7 points per game better for the two-post system versus the small-ball system under conditions of poor shooting. On the other hand, under shooting-the-lights-out conditions, small ball would be better than two-post ball.

It’s only a very small data sample, but the results are quite telling. Playing two posts for 5.5 minutes stopped the bleeding in the Nebraska game; but the two-post system replaced the small-ball system for an insufficient fraction of the 40 minutes in that game, so as not to provide the needed transfusion that would have saved the patient from “crappy shooting and poor rebounding disease.”

By the second half, the coaches and Taiye had largely remedied the Cain-blocking problem by protecting the ball better against block, plus preferring dribbling-into-the-post plays so as to leave the slower Cain in the dust. But the rebounding problem and poor-shooting problem were still there (except for Taiye, who was high point woman).

By my estimation, we might have had a good chance of salvaging a win if we had played double posts for most of the second half.

What is the mechanism by which two posts is better than small ball under conditions of poor shooting against a very tall Nebraska team? Well obviously more rebounding, for one thing - probably canceling the rebounding deficit or even outrebounding them during two-posts ball. But more than that. We can’t control who guards our players, but with double Bellos on the floor (or else Taiye + Klarke, for example), we can choose that Kehinde guards Cain. Not only does this keep fouls off Taiye, but on defense Kehinde can block out Cain while Taiye can go to work rebounding (at most against a 6’2” player). Also they can screen for each other on offense. Kehinde screens off Cain, again leaving Cain behind a Kehinde block, thus keeping her from either rebounding or defending Taiye (let alone blocking Taiye), and leaving Taiye to work on and rebound against a 6’2” player (probably Veerbeek). Taiye gets her normal dozen rebounds per game instead of the 5 she got. Plus Kehinde’s rebounds.

Truth be told (in hindsight, which is 20-20 of course), ideally we should have gone to double posts already at the 7:01 mark in the first quarter, right after the second time that Taiye got stuffed by Cain. That would have short-circuited the bulk of the hole we dug ourselves into during the first 14 minutes.

In the Ohio State game, Aaliyah Patty would not have scored at will if double twins were guarding the two OSU posts. Again in hindsight, playing double posts for a spell would almost certainly have prevented the Ohio State loss (since we only needed two points, in essence).

Against the remaining Big-Ten teams that are tall, we will still need to start out with small ball, but we will need to rotate into double posts for a total of about 10-30 minutes per game depending on scenario.

Rules of thumb:

Against weak or short teams: play mostly small ball.

Against a tall team while we’re shooting the lights out: mostly small ball with some double post to rest guards or mix it up.

Against a tall team while we’re shooting badly: mostly double post, reverting to small ball occasionally to see if shooting has improved.

Against a tall team while we’re shooting normally: about a 50/50 mix of small ball and double posts, tending toward more double post if shooting efficiency goes down (or we’re being badly outrebounded), and tending toward more small ball if shooting efficiency goes up.
 
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Aesop70

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We need to start playing Skoniers. For the benefit of this season and next.
I'm sure she is still learing and adapting. But this season is starting to look a lot like last season - and a 6 player rotation of essentially all guards and Bello will wear us out in individual games and for end of the season.
We can't go into next season (with both Bello sisters gone) without a single post player with any BIG experience. That will really handicap our 2021 season and waste the tremendous returning guards we'll have (Pitts, Hubbard, Scalia and Powell).
 

bbwannabe

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Thanks for the analysis CDTN. Helpful discussion for obvious need to play two posts at certain times. Wonder what practice is like and how that affects Coach Whay’s decisions.
 

bball_craz_26

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Don't forget 6'2 Kadi Sissoko with be available. She could slide in at the forward position and start with 6'0 Pitts, Hubbard and either Scalia or Powell running the PG position.


We need to start playing Skoniers. For the benefit of this season and next.
I'm sure she is still learing and adapting. But this season is starting to look a lot like last season - and a 6 player rotation of essentially all guards and Bello will wear us out in individual games and for end of the season.
We can't go into next season (with both Bello sisters gone) without a single post player with any BIG experience. That will really handicap our 2021 season and waste the tremendous returning guards we'll have (Pitts, Hubbard, Scalia and Powell).
 

Aesop70

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Don't forget 6'2 Kadi Sissoko with be available. She could slide in at the forward position and start with 6'0 Pitts, Hubbard and either Scalia or Powell running the PG position.
I sincerely hope Sissoko can be factor. She logged over 200 minutes for Syracuse last year and got some time in against Louisville and Notre Dame. Hopefully she shakes the rust off quickly. I'll reiterate that we need to begin next season with at least one post player that has logged at least 120-150 minutes of BIG play. And legit minutes - not 2-4 minutes right at the end games already decided. Based on what we've seen of Skoniers so far, her getting 6 minutes a game would benefit next season without compromising this one too much if at all.
 

thatjanelpick

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Wait. Sissoko is available? I thought she was ineligible for the whole season?
 

CutDownTheNet

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Wait. Sissoko is available? I thought she was ineligible for the whole season?
Not sure, but I suspect that the @bball_craz_26 phrase “will be available” is referring to 2020-21 season. Unless there is such a thing as transferring in Spring term and then becoming available in January between Fall term and Spring term mid-season. I dunno.

Also, there is Cumming who we suspect is/was injured (due to street clothes) but no info on prognosis or estimated availability. I think she suited up for Nebraska shootaround. Obviously, being healthy and being Big-Ten ready are separate issues. But her 6’3” height is an inch closer to (say) 6’4” Abbie Wolf. In her couple minutes in the summer scrimmage with Scout Team, I thought I saw potential, that obviously needs some more development and maybe (shall we say) Big-Ten hardening.
 
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