Live by the 3, Die by the 3: Minnesota Gopher edition

Well, the Gopher men let one get away the other night at the Barn against a not-very-good Iowa team. The post-mortem was that the Gophers shot the 3 poorly. Well, yeah. 5-of-29 3s (17%) qualifies as poorly, though not quite as poorly as the previous game, also a loss, in which they shot 3-of-20 (15%) from range. For the record, the scores were Iowa 86 Minnesota 77 and Indiana 74 Minnesota 62.

Superficially, the Iowa loss looked a lot like the Gopher women’s most recent loss at the Barn, 72-64 to Maryland a couple weeks ago, when the Gophers shot 7-of-28 3s (25%). Well, not only is 25% at least somewhat better than 15 and 18%, but having seen the 2 games, the similarities are or were indeed superficial.

The Maryland women are long and quick, always a good combination, and no matter how much the Gophers moved the ball around and moved without the ball and stretched and challenged the Maryland defense, whenever a Gopher got set to launch a long bomb, there was almost always a Maryland hand in the face. The Gophers shot 25% on 3s and 46% on 2s because Maryland defended the 3 more aggressively than it defended the 2. (For the record, 36% of the Gopher women’s FGA this year have been 3-pointers, and they’re making 35%. Against Maryland 43% of their FGA were 3s, a little more than normal, and considering the shooting percentages, the Gophers might have been marginally better off looking for a few more 2s.)

Meanwhile, the Gopher men are shooting more 3s (40% of FGA) and making less (34%). Again, they shot 3-of-20 against Indiana. Meanwhile, they’re making 58% of their 2-point attempts. And yet there’s this remarkable c raving to throw up the 3. 29 2s against Iowa, and 29 3s. They made 23 of the 2s (79%) and 5 of the 3s (again, 17%). Why would you not look for a few more of those shots that you can make 79% of? And, yet, against Iowa, not only did the Gophers shoot 29 3s, a great many of them seemed to come after one or two, or zero, passes. The Gophers didn’t move the ball around or move without the ball or stretch or challenge the Iowa defense. They just dribbled it up to the nearest Iowa defender. Hand in face. Jack it up. Clank. Among them, Carrington, Christie, Ola-Joseph and Mitchell made 13-of-13 2s and 4-of-20 3s. Why in the world did they take all those 3s when the 2-pointers were basically candy from a baby? The shot selection of this team is nothing short of CRAZY, folks. CRAZY.

Now its also true that the Gopher defense was not good. Iowa made 32-of-52 2-pointers or 61.5%, which is a lot less than the Gophers’ 79%, but the Hawkeyes had the good sense to shoot 52 2s while the Gophers could only muster 29 of them. The points in the paint were 56-38, or twice the differential in the final score. Iowa’s forwards Ben Krikke (6-9) and Owen Freeman (6-10) made 16-of-23 2s. They took almost as many 2-point FGA as the Gophers entire team. Now, that, my friends, is good shot selection. I don’t quite get why Pharrel Payne came off the bench and only played 15 minutes with the Gophers so lacking in inside defense. But what I really don’t get is all those 3-point shots. When I was a wee lad, coach woulda had us runnin’ laps all day the next day in an effort to get it through our thick skulls that we might want to take shots that we can make rather than ones we can’t.