Three players scored in double figures and the Gophers never trailed in a 69-47 rout of Saint Peter’s College at The Barn on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota was a heavy favorite heading into the game and certainly lived up to the billing, taking control of the game over last year’s MAAC champions early and never looking back.
Ralph Sampson had a solid, all-around game and scored 15 points, pulled down eight rebounds, dished out four assists and racked up four blocks. Sampson returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench against Appalachian State and missing the two games before that to an ankle injury.
Rodney Williams continued too thrive in his move to power forward, putting up 10 points and grabbing three steals. He also added four offensive rebounds, using his length and athletic ability to overpower the smaller Saint Peter’s squad. Julian Welch scored in double figures for the seventh consecutive game, putting up 11 points and four assists.
Though the Peacocks won the MAAC tournament last year and the conference’s automatic bid, the team that came to Williams Arena was merely a shadow of last season’s team, having lost the top four scorers from the NCAA Tournament team and not having much of an offense to speak of. That showed against a stingy Gopher defense that forced 18 turnovers and held Saint Peter’s to only 39% shooting from the field.
Minnesota again took care of the ball and committed only 10 turnovers but struggled from the free throw line, hitting only 17-27 attempts, good for 63%.
The Gophers improved to 10-1 on the year and have two more non-conference games before starting the Big Ten season. Of course, it’s always good to see a dominating win in any circumstance, but it’s a legitimate concern that the lack of competition so far this season doesn’t give us a great picture of who this team actually is. They’ve played inspired basketball since losing Mbakwe for the season, but the truth is they haven’t played a true road game yet this season or a legitimate major conference opponent (Virginia Tech is arguable). The lack of quality opponents is good for the win column, but how much of a shock will it be for the Gophers when they open up the season on the road for the first time against a really good Illinois team? Beating up on Saint Peter’s is all well and good, but hopefully it won’t end up mitigating the growth of a young, untested roster.