Minnesota fought back from a 13 point deficit in the third quarter to force an 89-77 upset over 7-seed Green Bay on Friday in NCAA Tournament play. The Gophers outscored Green Bay 57-37 in the second half, making them only the sixth team this season to score more than 60 points versus Green Bay, the national leader in scoring defense only allowing opponents only 41.6 points a game. Kenisha Bell led the way for the Gophers with 26 points along with Destiny Pitts with 20.
The tempo and pace Minnesota plays with wore on Green Bay, who played the first half without a single turnover and committed 12 in the second half. Minnesota had no trouble scoring, they're third in the country in scoring and average 85 points a game this season. The difference came in tempo and their ability to force turnovers and get stops in the second half.
Minnesota has not advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament since 2009. Offensively, matching up against Oregon, Minnesota should be fine if they continue to push tempo, crash the offensive glass and get themselves to the free throw line. I anticipate this will be a high scoring game and the team who can buckle down and defend better than the other will win.
Oregon, a two seed with the home-court advantage, is led by National Player of the Year finalist sophomore Sabrina Ionescu. She scores 19.4 points per game and is one of the top three-point shooters in the nation at 43 percent. The Ducks are coming off an 88-45 win over Seattle in the opening round. Ionescu posted another triple-double with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Oti Gildon added 16 off the bench and Ruthy Hebard added 12.
Oregon will have to keep Minnesota's Kenisha Bell in front of them and it will be a true test to the strides Oregon has taken defensively this season. In terms of pace of game, transition defense will be key for the Ducks. With five players averaging double digits, the Ducks are efficient and well-rounded and I see the true test being defensively for them and stopping Minnesota's scoring output.
Defense. This game truly will come down to which team can get stops.