Golden Gophers vs. Minnesota State University-Moorhead Dragons

7:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

TV: Bigtennetwork.com (Streaming for $2.99)

Tickets: Best available- Row 11, upper deck, center court

The Gophers’ 67 point win over Minnesota-Duluth wasn’t ugly, or at least it won’t be when compared to what we will see tomorrow night when Minnesota plays Minnesota State University-Moorhead.  If the ball bounces right and the Gophers get a few breaks, they could win by 80 points or more. Please consider the following.

  • Moorhead finished last season with a 10-16 record, and still has a young team.
  • The Dragons leading scorer from a year ago, Justyn Burgess, has graduated.
  • Moorhead lost to UMD twice last season, including a 20 point loss to the Bulldogs at home.

Tomorrow night won’t be The Dragons’ first loss to a Division I team this season. Last Wednesday they showed a few signs of life in losing to North Dakota State 88-71, though they did manage to play the Bison within three points in the second half.

The Gophers, of course, are coming off their rout of UMD and should be feeling pretty good. Even after a distracting week, Minnesota played disciplined and crisp basketball, shooting well, forcing turnovers, and taking care of the ball. Tubby Smith always seems to find something that could be improved and he isn’t one to let anyone rest on their laurels. Last Thursday he seemed content. Only five turnovers during an exhibition game can render even the pickiest coach, dare I say, happy.

Gopher keys to the game

  • Nothing is perfect even in a 67 point win, and Minnesota’s old nemesis, perimeter defense, is still a problem. UMD scored nearly half their points last Thursday on three-point shots, many of which were uncontested. The Gophers need to find a balance between shutting down the lane and guarding the three point line, or opponents this season won’t have any need to get the ball inside.
  • Six players scored in double figures for the Gophers against UMD, but none of them were true point-guards. Al Nolen and Justin Cobbs combined for six points on 1-4 shooting. Neither player is likely to put up big scoring numbers this season, but at some point in the season they will need to show they can  put the ball in the basket. On Monday night I’d like to see at least one of them score in double figures.
  • Finalize the guard rotation. Tubby Smith seemed to play each of the guards an equal amount of time in several different combinations. This is a hint that Coach Smith is still tinkering with the roles of the different players. Against Moorehead I’d like to see more of Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, with Joseph as the number one scoring option on the floor.

Dragon keys to the game

  • Keep the Gophers off the free-throw line, and make free throws themselves. The Dragons played the Bison evenly in almost all areas in their exhibition loss, but not at the free-throw line.  The Bison made 26 free throws while the Dragons attempted only 16. The Bison won by 17, and outscored the Dragons at the free-throw line by 16.
  • Take care of the ball. Beating better teams starts with not beating yourself. The Dragons will need to commit fewer than ten turnovers to have any chance to keep the game competitive.
  • Make three-pointers. The opportunities should be there, and has been seen time and time again, the three-pointer is the great equalizer.