Monson seeking accountability as Gophers squeak by in win

by Aaron Blake

Despite an initially absent and mostly quiet Rick Rickert, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team was able to pull out a victory in their first game of 2003.

Both Rickert and center Jerry Holman were on the bench for the opening tip, as coach Dan Monson sent a message to his players in the Gophers’ 85-80 win over Oral Roberts Wednesday afternoon in front of a crowd of 12,101 at Williams Arena.

“It wasn’t because anybody’s pouting,” Monson said. “It wasn’t because the effort wasn’t there. And it wasn’t because guys were more worried about themselves than the team.

“I was just trying to put some accountability and emphasis into other areas of our game. So I put a little more onus on our leaders.”

Monson admits he doesn’t know how effective his strategy was, with both Rickert and Holman struggling while Maurice Hargrow and Kevin Burleson carried Minnesota (7-3) to victory.

The two starting guards had 17 points each, with Hargrow grabbing 10 rebounds and Burleson making all four of his 3-point attempts.

After making his first on-court appearance five minutes into the contest, Rickert couldn’t find the hoop. Despite making only one of seven shots in the first half, he finished the game with 15 points and nine rebounds.

Holman entered the game at the same time as Rickert and then sat back down on the bench less than a minute and a half later for allowing a Reggie Borges putback. He finished with eight points and six rebounds in only 19 minutes of play due to foul trouble.

“I was happy today,” Holman said. “It was great. Coach is holding guys accountable, including myself, if I’m not performing and doing the things he wants me to do.”

The Gophers were also without the services of an ill Michael Bauer, who logged only three minutes before Monson decided he was too weak to play.

Oral Roberts used a 9-0 run early in the first half to grab a 19-14 lead. Minnesota battled back slowly but surely and took a 35-33 advantage into the locker room at half.

The teams combined for 60 free throws in the second half and four of the Eagles’ starters fouled out. The Gophers were 26 for 37 at the charity stripe after the break and 14 of their final 16 points came from free throws.

Minnesota wraps up its nonconference schedule Saturday at 1 p.m. against Sacred Heart.