Gophers ground Hawks by near-record margin

by Jabari Ritchie

In the Minnesota men’s basketball team’s game room located underneath the Williams Arena floor, there was a Nintendo 64 hooked up to the room’s big-screen television Thursday.

Waiting for Gophers players after they ripped Maryland-Eastern Shore 95-48 was GoldenEye 007, a game in which the character James Bond guns down scores of foes with a variety of weapons.

It appeared the Gophers used the video game to develop a killer instinct.

Minnesota used five players scoring in double figures to annihilate the Hawks by 47 points, the third-largest margin of victory in the program history.

After taking a 45-24 lead at halftime, Minnesota went on a 19-0 run to begin the second half. Before resting their starters late in the game, the Gophers led by as many as 60 points.

“We didn’t want to let up. We didn’t want that team to think they had any chance of coming back,” said forward Jerry Holman, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. “Once you get a team down, you’ve got to squeeze it. That’s what a good team’s all about.”

After struggling for several games before pulling out a late win over Oregon on Monday, Minnesota looked to have solved its problems against Maryland-Eastern Shore (4-6).

The Gophers (6-3) boasted a 55.2 field goal percentage, had 25 assists and outrebounded the Hawks 42-29. Meanwhile, Maryland-Eastern Shore shot just 31.6 percent from the field, turned the ball over 18 times and failed to score for the first four minutes of the second half.

“It’s been a struggle for this team to pick up the concept that you’ve got to measure yourself on how you play, not on your opponent,” said Minnesota coach Dan Monson. “Tonight I thought they did by far the best job of that all year.”

The Hawks kept the game close for the first 10 minutes of the first half. Although the Gophers never fell behind, Maryland-Eastern Shore trailed by only five with midway through the half.

Then Minnesota took control of the game with a 15-0 run that gave the Gophers a 38-17 lead with four minutes remaining in the first.

“This is how I’ve been expecting us to play all year,” said forward Michael Bauer, who broke out of a scoring slump with a 15-point game. “It’s just a sign that our team’s starting to come together.”

For the third time this season, senior forward Dusty Rychart led Minnesota in scoring. Rychart also had his third double-double of the year, making eight of 10 field goal attempts for 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

“As a team we’d been struggling in the last couple of games,” said guard Travarus Bennett, who scored 16 points. “Today a lot of people (who were struggling) came out and made some shots. Ö A lot of people made some steps.”

Not only did Minnesota post its biggest offensive performance of the season, the Gophers also produced one of their stingiest defensive efforts of the Monson era. The last time Minnesota held an opponent under 50 points was in a win over Wisconsin on Jan. 6.

“They had 24 points at the half, and we didn’t want them to score 50,” said forward Steve Esselink, who made five of five field goal attempts for 12 points. “We wanted to make sure we could play a full 40 minutes, and we accomplished that.”

Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]