Men’s basketball beats Lousiana Tech to improve to 9-1

About five minutes into Minnesota’s men’s basketball game against Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night, Bulldogs forward Antonio Meeking bumped into teammate Travis Lewis, forcing the guard to travel.
The act made it apparent the night could be a long one for Louisiana Tech.
And it certainly was — the Gophers never trailed on their way to a 69-53 win at Williams Arena, improving their record to 9-1.
“We made them look like they were just another team coming in here, and they aren’t,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said.
“We took care of a game that could have been very difficult. We were pretty much in control from the outset.”
Minnesota built first-half leads of 5-0, 13-2 and 23-8 before sustaining a 37-26 lead at the midway point of the game.
An aggressive Gophers defense, combined with Louisiana State’s inconsistent shooting from downtown, got Minnesota off to a quick start.
“We jumped out on them from the start,” said Gophers guard Terrance Simmons, who finished with just seven points but played well against the Bulldogs attack. “We maintained it the rest of the way.”
Simmons and the Gophers defense forced 13 first-half turnovers, while the Bulldogs shot just 5 of 14 from three-point territory.
“We came out tonight and aggressively got into them,” Monson said. “It was a very proactive mindset from the get go.”
In the second half, Louisiana Tech briefly cut Minnesota’s lead under 10. But the key word here is briefly — 30 seconds.
The Gophers upped the lead to 12 a few minutes later, then the trading of baskets between the two clubs continued until the 10-minute mark of the half.
That’s when Minnesota freshman Michael Bauer gave the Gophers a spark they needed to end the game.
The forward sandwiched a pair of three-point plays — one the old-fashioned way after he was fouled — with two big blocks on the defensive end to help build the Minnesota lead to 16.
Still, the Gophers lacked what Monson called the final blow.
If the Bulldogs hadn’t continued the first-half falter from behind the arc and go 1 for 9 in the second half from three-point land, they might have been able to stay in the game.
But again, the key word was might. The Gophers kept the defensive pressure they used early on, and held off Louisiana State — enough so that Monson could empty the bench with 1:04 remaining.
“Maybe we’re not a knock-out punch type team,” Monson said. “Maybe we need to just keep jabbing at them. We don’t have a lot of big punches, but as long as we understand who we are and keep pounding on people, that may be the identity of this team.”
Added senior forward J.B. Bickerstaff, who finished with a game-high 16 points: “If we go for the knockout blow, we’re going to get beat.”
The Gophers now have 10 days off before returning to the floor against Dartmouth on Dec. 22. At 9-1, Monson was asked if he was shocked by the mark through 10 games.
The reply?
Not a tough one to guess.
“I don’t think our record is a surprise,” Monson said. “As a competitor, if you don’t think you can win every game, you shouldn’t be in it.”

John R. Carter covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].