Isaiah Washington the Difference in Gopher Victory over Illini

Illinois' Trent Frazier (1) tries to go between Minnesota's Amir Coffey (5) and Isaiah Washington (11) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 86-75. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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After seeing some of the quotes that were coming out of the locker room this week, leading up to the Gophers v Illini game last night at The Barn, I thought this contest would be over before halftime. The Gophers have been playing much better of late and Illinois, although they recently upset #13 Maryland, just isn’t very good, outside of their Sophomore PG Trent Frazier, who had another massive game yesterday.

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But, (per usual — just ask my wife) I was wrong. Illinois actually led going into halftime 39-37… But then, Pitino handed the keys of the offense to Jellyfam himself, Isaiah Washington. The best part, though… he didn’t even fuck it up this time.

It’s weird how putting a true point guard in charge of an offense full of playmakers (and one dead-eye shooter) could make said offense actually look smooth and efficient… Washington finished the game with 12 points, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers.

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You’ve been waiting a lot longer than expected to see a game like this (against a Big Ten team) from Jelly if you’re a Gopher basketball fan. He was so highly touted out of high school, yet I currently have him transferring after this season. I don’t know anything about that on the inside and I haven’t heard any rumblings but Washington isn’t going to play ahead of Marcus Carr or Payton Willis, who are both currently sitting out after transferring in the offseason.

Is he willing to sit on the bench as a Junior without a viable path to a lot of playing time, outside of an injury to someone ahead of him? Probably not. I wouldn’t… Not with the following he has. I’m sure he’s been hearing a lot from his hundreds of thousands of social media followers.

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However, the NY native has time yet this season to turn things around and the Gophers need him to do so. Without a true point guard currently on the roster outside of Jellyfam, the Gopher offense truly misses a natural signal-caller when Jelly is messy.

That also means that an efficient Washington (like last night) would make a big difference and stick out naturally as the guy with the ball in his hands (like last night), allowing him to claim his PG position for next year and beyond. AND, he doesn’t have to put up big numbers. Having him play point guard with the starters just makes the offense better because it moves Amir Coffey, Dupree McBrayer, and others into their more natural positions.

Now, with all of that being said…. I need to see A LOT more of this type of play going forward to regain faith in Mr. Jellyfam. We’ll see how he does vs this upcoming schedule.

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The full-game highlights are below if you missed it or want to watch it over.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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