While the Gophers couldn't manage to consistently win games during the regular season, causing them to miss out on the NCAA Tournament, they have put together a nice little run in the NIT. Earning a trip to Madison Square Garden to play in the NIT semis, Pitino's team got off to a hot start tonight as they try to beat the Seminoles for the second time this season (beating them at home four months ago in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge).
The Gophers started off red hot, converting on their first six shots (four of which were three pointers) to open up a quick 17-6 lead a little over five minutes into the action. Unfortunately for Minnesota, though, their pace slowed and they've only hit four shots over the last 14:36 of the half and didn't make a field goal for almost the last seven minutes of the half, only scoring two late points on a pair of free throws by Andre Hollins.
Minnesota has spread the ball around in the first half, with Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu leading the way with 8 points each. The team has relied heavily on three pointers, shooting 14 of their 26 first half shots from behind the arc. Interestingly enough, the Gophers shot 50% from beyond the arc on 14 attempts but could only muster 25% on their 12 two pointers.
While Minnesota's offense stuttered down the stretch they still managed to enter the break up 10, leading Florida State 30-20. A lot of that can be credited to the sloppy play from Florida State's backcourt, as the team has committed 11 first half turnovers (7 alone from guards Aaron Thomas and Ian Miller). Florida State has also only hit on 1 of their 11 threes and shot less than 37% from the court. However, considering the start from Minnesota they're lucky they didn't let the game get away here. Once you realize how poorly Minnesota has played after the first six minutes that ten point deficit isn't much if Florida State can get the offense rolling along.
The winner of tonight's late game will face off on Thursday against SMU for the NIT Championship. If Minnesota wants to hold on here they're going to need to find some consistency on offense as it's unlikely Florida State will shoot 11% from three and commit 11 turnovers again in the second half.