- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Minnesota beat Fairfield 67-57 Thursday night. That's a decent result. The Gophers are still figuring their backcourt out, Fairfield is a soild mid-major with a good coach (Sidney Johnson) and a shot at making the NCAA tournament this season.
Given all the surprising high-major home upsets we've already seen this season, maybe Minnesota coach Tubby Smith should be relieved his team didn't join those ranks Thursday night.
Still, Smith doesn't seem very happy with his team's play, particularly with its 23 turnovers in Thursday night's immensely sloppy affair. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Amelia Rayno:
"It was a comedy of turnovers for a while,” Smith said. “Forty-three turnovers in a game? This is ugly. It was just a lack of execution, a lack of mental toughness.
[...] “You know, there’s always something where you say, ‘Should we have done more of this in practice?’ And one of the things we didn’t work on much was a jump stop, but you’d hope that Division I players would understand the jump stop, balance under pressure.”
That's unusually sardonic stuff from Tubby, and I had to chuckle a little at the quote. He sounds like my roommate when the wrong mail arrives at our house. ("I mean, you'd think a mailman, whose only job is to read, deliver the right mail to the right places, would be able to read an address. Apparently not.") He's right -- a jump stop is something you learn in high school, maybe earlier. You'd expect that a Division I team wouldn't need much in the way of schooling on that point. But maybe not.
In a weird way, you could read this in one of two ways. It may be encouraging. After all, Minnesota coughed up the ball 23 times but still held Fairfield to fewer than 60 points, thanks in part to the Stags' own turnover woes. They coughed it up 20 times.
It may also be discouraging because Minnesota's biggest question mark this season is its backcourt. If the Gophers can't handle the ball effectively against the likes of Fairfield, can they expect to do so against Big Ten competition? Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who called the turnovers "unacceptable," doesn't seem to think so. Maybe it's a one-time thing. Maybe it's a trend. Either way, it's something to keep an eye on.