-- BREAKING IT DOWN --
Key moment: USC had trimmed the lead from 17 points down to nine with 3:24 remaining. But a sequence similar to what has happened to USC almost everytime it has tried to make a late run in games this season occurred. Omar Oraby missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe put in a pair of free throws, Oraby was blocked at the rim leading to a Golden Gophers fast break where Jio Fontan was called for an intentional foul, giving Minnesota two free throws and the ball. The lead ballooned back up to an insurmountable 13 with only two minutes remaining.
Player of the game: Omar Oraby. In the first half, Oraby played eight minutes and only had one rebound and one block. He didn't attempt a shot. In the second half, the sleeping giant awoke. Oraby punished the Minnesota front line displaying a bevy of post moves that ended in 15 points coming primarily on layups and dunks. He made his first five field goals and finished 7-of-9 for the game. Oraby also had two blocks and another monster block on an Mbekwe dunk attempt that was erroneously called a foul.
Most Spectacular Play: The Oraby/Mbekwe block that was called a foul was pretty spectacular as both big men went crashing to the ground from the collision of forces. However, Minnesota's Rodney Williams was a highlight reel all by himself. He made four field goals -- all four were dunks. His most impressive dunk came on a putback slam.
Mbakwe missed an attempt from the right side of the lane. It came off the rim on the opposite side where Williams soared through an occupied lane. He caught the ball on the left side of his body below and away from the rim, but Williams was still able to hang in the air long enough to throw down a two-handed slam to give the Gophers an early 15-6 lead they would never surrender.
Unsung Hero: Byron Wesley. If it wasn't for Williams dunking proficiency, Wesley could have had the Most Spectacular Play. In the second half, he drove around a defender on the left baseline and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk. Wesley finished with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including making USC's only 3-pointer on the night (1-for-11 as a team). He also added five rebounds.
"Step It Up:" Horrible starts. Once again, USC came out flat. Before their first basket, the Trojans had three turnovers, a missed layup, missed tip-in and an air ball. Minnesota, on the other hand, had a layup and three made jumpers by the Hollins brothers for a 9-0 lead. USC scored back-to-back baskets to trim the lead to five, but after Williams' putback slam, the Trojans never got closer than nine points.
Key stat: 17 turnovers. USC is turning the ball over way too much and it starts with the guards. Fontan, Wesley and Chass Bryan combined for 11 of the turnovers. Some of the giveaways are just bad too -- dropped passes, fumbles, throwing into traffic, etc. Minnesota scored 22 points off the turnovers.
Sideline Strategy: Kevin O'Neill let it be known after the game that he was not happy with the energy he got from some of his players. Though he wasn't mentioned by name, JT Terrell was one of those players. Unsatisfied with the starts his team was getting at the beginning of halves, O'Neill benched Terrell to start the second half.
When Terrell did get in, he only played three minutes. After driving to the basket and not getting a foul call when he was knocked to the ground, Terrell stayed on the ground for four or five seconds, prompting O'Neill to yell at him to get up and get back on defense. When Terrell jogged back on defense and never made it inside the three-point line before Minnesota had shot and Dewayne Dedmon had won a rebounding battle, O'Neill immediately sent a substitute for him.