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Down with Goldy is right. It was only an exhibition. It is entirely meaningless. It may have even been unfair. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t get a bit excited.

In a game that wasn’t even really that (by definition a game involves competition, and I’m not sure what transpired can in any way be defined as competitive) the Gophers turned a 22-11 lead into a  60-13 laugher, and there were still 16 minutes left to play.

Even in a slaughter such as this, there are real reasons for optimism.  Minnesota’s point total, a whopping 114 points, is the most in years, including exhibition games.  Last season the Gophers played three Division II teams, including an 8 point win in the exhibition opener against  St. Cloud State 88-80. The Gophers won both exhibition games a season earlier as well, but their highest point total was 92 points, and their largest win was by a margin of 35 points.

Exhibition games, and most games in the early season are notoriously sloppy. This was not the case at all last night.  Minnesota’s offense was crisp and the mistakes were few. The Gophers committed only five turnovers, and even the outside shooting picked up as the game went on. Perimeter play isn’t quite what it needs to be to get the attention of Big Ten defenses, though it was better than last year. The Gophers held a major advantage in size, and  it showed. Minnesota’s interior players scored at will, with combined shooting of 19-32, and even that included a poor 2-9 performance by Paul Carter.

The defensive performance was equal parts intimidating and terrifying as the Gophers systematically dismantled the Bulldogs. In the first half UMD committed more turnovers than shots attempted. Obviously this is a statistic you don’t often see and goes a long way in explaining how a relatively close game could so quickly turn into something other than a competition. Unfortunately, open perimeter shots were still an issue. UMD scored 30 of their 47 points behind the three-point line. Open three point shots are going to be an unfortunate side-effect of Tubby Smith’s famed ball-line defense. It would be nice to see this eventually improved.

On a night with distractions swirling, the Gophers put all the attention back on the court where it should be. Even if three certain individuals aren’t able to rejoin the team, the Gophers will be alright.

Who did what:

  • Rodney Williams welcome to big time college basketball. Unfortunately, solid defense, court awareness, and outside shooting don’t find their way on youtube. All were on display by the Gopher freshman. He made two open three-pointers (yes they were wide open, but no one could do that for us last year) and wreaked havoc in the full-court press. He finished with 11 points, two blocks, two steals, and the roof-raising jam.
  • Paul Carter might just need to calm down and slow down. In scrimmages and practices he can dominate. Once the whistle blows though, he can’t seem to finish even though there is no increased difficulty in his shot attempts. Even if his intensity keeps the ball out of the basket, it will keep him on the court. He finished with 8 rebounds in only 24 minutes.
  • Damian Johnson has really polished his offensive game in the off-season and added some more aggressive rebounding too. He scored 16 points on 9 shot attempts from the field. The senior captain had his fair share of dunks, and also several mid-range jumpers. His defensive game is a given, with seven steals and three blocks. I’d like to think he got something of a triple-double with the points, 10 rebounds, and 10 forced turnovers.
  • Ralph Sampson III bulked up and there was no one on the Bulldogs that could handle him. He scored 13 points with six blocks and six rebounds. More importantly, he was able to get to the line six times making five. A realistic goal for Sampson this season is to score in double figures, and getting half way their for free should raise his point total considerably.
  • Lawrence Westbrook had an easy night, scoring 19 points, most of which seemed to be wide-open lay-ups. There was some concern that the new slim senior would lose strength along with his bowling ball of a body. It wasn’t evident last night as he continued to dive through the lane and get to the line.
  • Al Nolen played within his means on offense, which meant focusing more on distributing the ball than shooting. Nolen led his team with 6 assists and no turnovers.
  • Blake Hoffarber struggled from the outside, again, but showed that his all-around game is coming along nicely. He repeatedly worked his defenders on back door cuts and added a dare I say “athletic” put-back.
  • Colton Iverson was a dominating force on the inside, and had the vague appearance of Cole Aldrich. The hair is shorter and the muscles are bigger. He showed a nice hook-shot that is undefendable. Iverson also realizes that playing time is on the line. He threw himself after a loose ball in the middle of a blow out. The coaches have to like that.
  • Devoe Joseph clearly likes playing the shooting guard position. He scored 8 straight points in the first half. He shared the court with all the Gophers guards, possibly indicating Tubby Smith isn’t quite set on a back court rotation.
  • Justin Cobbs has a motor. He hounded the UMD guards all night. He also showed an ability to penetrate and to give his teammates the ball in a position to score with an amazing five assists in 14 minutes. If there is any opening at all, he is willing to shove a pass through it. Ralph and Colton, keep your head on a swivel.
  • Dominique Dawson could have been a star at the Division II level. Instead, he is a Gopher bench warmer who has to be happy with four points in six minutes.