JF

Next year’s Gopher recruiting class may be highly touted, but Al Nolen is showing that this year’s freshmen have impact potential as well. Despite a sluggish first half, the Gophers beat Southwest Minnesota State 88-52.

After last weeks solid floor game against Minnesota State, Nolen scored 24 points, didn’t miss a shot from the field or the free throw line, including 6-6 from behind the three point line, and perhaps most importantly, turned the ball over only once. Spencer Tollackson was 8-10 from the floor, and was unstoppable from the inside. Unfortunately, this proved to be the only reliable scoring from the Gophers in the first half, as they missed several wide open three pointers, occasionally on one possession.

Southwest State was able to hang around until half time, occasionally causing Gopher fans to have flashbacks to last year’s embarrassing but not particularly surprising loss to Winona State. The Mustangs repeatedly answered Gopher runs, cutting the lead to one with nine minutes to play in the first half, and down to five after a buzzer beating three pointer .

The second half was all Gophers as the outside shots started to fall, and the Mustangs could barely get a shot off. The Gophers made 7-11 three pointers in the second half, compared to 20% in the first half. Southwest State made only two field goals in the second half, and were only able to get off 14 shots. In the first half they were 14-27 from the floor.

While it is way to early to tell if Nolen’s performance will translate to a successful freshman season, at the very least it shows that the Gophers may have a viable second point guard, perhaps enough to free Lawrence Mckenzie from ball handling duties. McKenzie sat out tonight’s game with a groin injury. Hopefully both former Minneapolis Henry guards will have the chance to be on the court at the same time Saturday against Army.

Who did what

  • Lawrence Westbrook once again showed he is deserving of his increased playing time. His 17 points in no way rivaled his record setting high school performances, but his play continues to take pressure off “the big three”.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala didn’t play much, but did make his first three pointer of the season. Hopefully he will avoid washing dishes for the rest of the season
  • I was high on Kevin Payton a year ago, but I am not sure why now. He continues to lead the team in assists, but is such a liability when he shoots and while playing defense that it may be time to move the other guards up in the rotation.
  • Jonathan Williams is a fouling machine. There were no highlight material decapitations tonight, which is an improvement over last week. However, it is hard to be intimidating while sitting on the bench.
  • Blake Hoffarber continues to show growing pains. He was beaten badly on consecutive plays late in the first half. Being beaten because of lack of height or quickness is acceptable, but there is no excuse for simply having no idea where your man is.
  • Ryan Saunders’s suit costs as much as tuition at the U. I know he is Flip’s kid, but he doesn’t need to dress like his dad.
  • The student section, or at least the writer of the student section newsletter, needs to watch a few more basketball games before writing official cheering instructions. It shouldn’t take five sentences to describe how to distract a free throw shooter. More on this in a later entry.