In a season so far characterized by intense and pressuring defense, the Gophers showed they can score a little too. Dan Coleman scored a season high 22 including the thousandth point of his career and Blake Hoffarber added 21, 18 in the first half as the Gophers scored more than 90 points for the first time since 2005.

In an obvious attempt to get Coleman and fellow 6’9″ senior Spencer Tollacskon into the flow of the game, the Gophers deliberately went inside on the first several possessions. This strategy paid off as Tollackson and Coleman were unstoppable. The ease in which the Gophers scored was bad enough for CSU, but a terrible bout of the hacks compounded their difficulties.

Ronnie Aguilar, one of Colorado State’s two seven foot tall starting centers may be the worst basketball player to ever set foot on the raised floor at Williams Arena. So far this year we have seen a fair number of D-II farm boys, a mustached Puerto Rican who kicked his legs sideways whenever he ran, and everyone’s favorite goon from Central Michigan. These guys were bad, but they didn’t do too much to hurt their team. They didn’t, at least, make their team worse than it would have been with only four players on the court. As if he took these dismal displays of basketball as a challenge, Ronnie Aguilar committed two fouls in the first 45 seconds of the game and left the game. After a several minute break, he re-entered the game and fouled again within several seconds and sat out the remainder of the half. He lasted another 45 seconds in the second half before committing his fourth foul. Somehow, despite spending the last several minutes on the floor, he didn’t foul out. He also didn’t do much else. In fact, he was rarely within 5 feet of whomever he was “guarding” to avoid fouling out.

Because of the sheer dominance by the Gopher big men (Tollackson scored 16, Damian Johnson added 10, and Jonathan Williams scored two on a breakaway dunk) Blake Hoffarber found himself wide open behind the three point line. He made his first three pointer despite being fouled, and went on to make 5 more, all of them wide open. It was the most impressive shooting performance by a Gopher in the last several years. Tollackson was responsible for most of those open looks, and he finished the game with 5 assists.

As one would imagine, the 91 Gopher points were accompanied by accurate shooting. The Gophers made 54% of their field goals. Unfortunately, besides Hoffarber’s threes, the Gophers were dreadful from long range, shooting only 10-29 for the game and 4-16 in the second half.

In a game that they led by 23 at half time, there was simply no reason for 16 three point attempts in the second half. As I wrote in my preview for the UC-Riverside game, sometimes winning isn’t enough. Against bad teams when the score is all but decided before the ball is even tipped, it is more important to play in a way that will make the team better in the long run. The Gophers didn’t do that, and won’t be having much fun during their practices leading up to Wednesday game against South Dakota State. In addition to the bad shooting, the Gopher abandoned their inside game that had made them so successful in the first half. They also, for the first time this season, looked like the didn’t care about defense. This is especially disappointing considering their first half defensive performance brought the crowd to its feet several times, including the first standing ovation this season that didn’t take place during a time out. These lapses are understandable, but could become a much bigger concern against better teams. Colorado State was within 14 points towards the end of the second half.

I’m still amazed this team has improved so much that I am able to gripe about lazy defense during a blow out. The Barn continues to get louder and fuller, and should be in vintage form next month when the Big Ten season begins. I’ll still be thrilled with an NIT home game, but its getting more and more difficult to restrain loftier expectations.

Who did what?

  • Dan Coleman did what he does best. He shot 10-14 from the floor, mostly mid range jumpers and layups, didn’t attempt a three point shot and added 11 rebounds. When Dan Coleman has struggled, he has been floating around the three point line, shooting out of his range and unable to create his shot. His five offensive rebounds last night clearly show that Coleman has realized that he is at his best when he is close to the basket.
  • Jamal Abu-Shamala may be the biggest victim of Blake Hoffarber’s surprising freshman season. He played only 10 minutes, missed the only shot he attempted, and didn’t do much else.
  • Spencer Tollackson dominated on the offensive end, and shut down Colorado State’s Stuart Creason. Inside is where he belongs, but he knocked down a three pointer within the context of the offense, and showed that he at least needs to be guarded a the top of the key. He added 5 assists, but still insists on full court passes that will eventually get one of his teammates killed. Any good quarterback knows not to lead a receiver down the middle of the field right into the path of an oncoming linebacker.
  • Lawrence Westbrook scored five points, but played poorly on defense.
  • Lawrence McKenzie played the point more than he has in any other game this season, and his offensive numbers suffered as he went 1-5 from the field with only 4 points. He did have 5 assists and two turnovers, but adds much more to the team when isn’t called on to handle the ball. With the apparently failure of the Kevin Peyton Project, Tubby Smith faces quite the challenge in deciding who should handle the ball and when.
  • Damian Johnson score 10 points, including a few slashing dunks. For the first time this season, Tubby played Coleman and Johnson at the same time, and both seemed to benefit from the other’s athleticism.
  • Jonathan Williams dribbled about 70 feet and dunked the basketball. This was the most frightening thing I have seen since Spencer Tollackson did the same thing a few weeks ago. Wait, seeing a point guard trying to get a lay up over Williams is even more frightening. He may decapitate someone on of these days. He didn’t last night, but did have 4 blocks.
  • Kevin Peyton continues to get minutes, and continues to be afraid to shoot. Despite several wide open looks, he insists on passing up his shot. Last night he was 0-4 and missed a lay up.
  • Al Nolen played another solid game and continues to be the teams only real point guard. He had 11 point, 5 assists, and only one turnover.
  • Blake Hoffarber played a great first half and a horrible second half, scoring a career high 21. His emergence has opened up an inside-outside game that many teams will have a hard problem defending.
  • Dare I say it: Ryan Saunders, modest suit.

Highlights from the Big Ten Network