Fear the Gopher!

Paul has occasionally commented on University of Maryland athletics; I’ve been envious of the school’s “Fear the Turtle” motto, especially since my own teams at the University of Minnesota haven’t been inspiring much fear in their opponents, at least in the major sports. The Gopher basketball team, in particular, has been woeful in recent years. Last year the Gophs went 9-22, 3-13 in the Big Ten, and fired their coach.
To just about everyone’s amazement, the Gophers hired the University of Kentucky’s Tubby Smith before the start of this season. How they enticed a coach of Smith’s stature to take over our bedraggled basketball program remains a mystery, but the effects were obvious just about immediately. With the same players from last year’s team, plus two freshman guards, Smith has compiled a 20-12 record and taken the team to the semi-finals of the Big Ten tournament. The key seems to have been teaching the team to play defense. Who knew?
Last night, the Gophers played Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. They led all the way, until Indiana took a one-point lead with 1.5 seconds to play. That set up a desperation pass, three-quarters the length of the court, that was picked off by freshman Blake Hoffarber, who turned, put the ball up left-handed, and hit nothing but net.
If Hoffarber’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he won an ESPY as a high school sophomore by sending the Minnesota state high school championship game into double overtime with a shot from three-point range that he made while lying flat on his back. I saw that game, as the other team was the high school that my kids attend.
This video shows the end of last night’s game, with a flashback to Hoffarber’s high school heroics:



This afternoon, Minnesota will play Illinois in the semi-finals. Fear the Gopher!

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