As expected, the Gophers handed Northeastern State (Okla.) a thorough beating in one of two tune-up exhibition games, taking down the Division II RiverHawks 109-59. The game was never close, with the Gophers jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead and never looking back, taking a 59-25 lead into halftime.
With the level of competition the team faced it’s hard to get a good read on just how well they played, given that some mistakes just didn’t show through or weren’t exploited, but it was a dominating performance, nonetheless. Blake Hoffarber shot the lights out, hitting six of his eight three-point attempts and leading the team with 20 points. Ralph Sampson III was close behind with 17 points. Colton Iverson, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe rounded out the double-digit scoring efforts for the team while adding an array of highlight dunks and alley-oops.
Perhaps more important than offensive output was the rust-free performance that the team put on. Even in dominating games against inferior opponents, teams can often look shaky in early-season contests; taking dumb shots, throwing the ball away, unforced errors, etc. These are signs that the team just isn’t on the same page. The Gophers, however, showed none of that, which was incredibly refreshing. It looks for now like the team’s Canadian trip in August is paying dividends by getting them into an early comfort zone. The on-court performance looked like a team that had played together for years.
Crisp passing accompanied smart shots and great looks close in to the basket. Players had a good feel for where each other were and the team looked to be on the same page throughout. When the smoke cleared, the team had shot 57%, pulled away 12 steals and forced 16 turnovers, while holding the RiverHawks to 27% shooting and winning the rebound battle 52-29.
The twin towers Sampson III and Iverson looked as good as advertised as well, pulling down 19 rebounds between the two of them and swatting four blocks. With both forwards expected to play a big leadership role this year, it was nice to see the two show up to play, and play hard.
No surprises in this one, as it was utter domination from beginning to end. Minnesota hosts Winona State in its second exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 8 at 7pm.
- The starting lineup consisted of: 1-Al Nolen; 2-Hoffarber; 3-Williams; 4-Sampson; 5-Iverson, which is likely to be the lineup that will start going into the season.
- Nolen, while failing to score, dished out seven assists to go with four steals. Definitely nice to have his presence back.
- Tubby Smith played the entire squad, giving PT to guys who aren’t expected to see much time at all this year including Maverick Ahanmisi, Elliott Eliason, and Dominique Dawson.
- New recruit Austin Hollins saw his first action as a Gopher, pouring in nine points while swiping three steals.
Photo courtesy: Eric Miller/University of Minnesota