U looks to emphasize passing in exhibition finale

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team plays tonight at Williams Arena.

Adam Fink

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team is not happy settling for good shots this year.

It goes beyond that. The Gophers want to attempt great shots. This means solid ball movement and selfless play.

“We have emphasized sharing the ball,” coach Dan Monson said. “The players are helping each other get looks.”

Heading into this season’s final exhibition game tonight against the Pulley Panthers at Williams Arena, Minnesota is already reaping the benefits of an unselfish team and a different strategy.

Last year, the Gophers were content running the ball through forwards Rick Rickert and Jerry Holman.

As low-post players, this strategy worked because it played to their strengths. Both have since left the program.

“We still want to get the ball inside this year,” senior guard Ben Johnson said. “We have come to realize, to be a good team we have to share the ball.”

In addition, Johnson notices in practice that the team stays patient while waiting for the right shot.

Adam Boone, who is expected to run the point for the Gophers this year, has also noticed a change.

The transfer from North Carolina said the guards are taking a more active role in swinging the ball.

“Guys want to move the ball,” said Boone, who tallied a game-high six assists Friday against Concordia-St. Paul.

In the game Minnesota tallied 20 assists, almost four more per game than last season.

Boone added that the one big difference is trust.

“Guys believe in each other,” the junior said. “We know we can each shoot the ball.”

One side effect of more ball movement has been increased turnovers. Against the Bears, Minnesota gave the ball away 24 times.

Monson said he noticed the team was sometimes forcing an extra pass, which led to throwing the ball into the stands or to the wrong team.

But he believes as the team grows more comfortable, these types of turnovers will decrease.

Finding a teammate who can score could be a problem for Minnesota’s guards. However, the Gophers roster has a number of players who can potentially finish on the offensive end.

While question marks linger around who will pick up the scoring previously done by Rickert, Holman and Kevin Burleson, the team has a plethora of young and emerging talent.

“Everyone here can score,” center Jeff Hagen said. “But also everyone wants to win. We are sick of

going to the NIT.

“We know we will have more success if we play as a team.”

Monson said he will use the same starting lineup he used against Concordia-St. Paul. Guards Johnson, Boone and Moe Hargrow will start along with a frontcourt of Kris Humphries and Michael Bauer.

Remember us?

Two Pulley Panthers players will come into tonight’s game with playing experience on Williams Arena’s raised floor.

Both Mitch Ohnstad and Ryan Iverson are former Gophers.

Ohnstad played for the Gophers until Oct. 13, 2000, when he was kicked off the team for two arrests in a span of 18 months. The guard averaged 6.9 points per game in 56 career contests.

Iverson was part of the team in 1999-2000 but was forced to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules.

Free throws

u Today is the national signing day for recruits who have verbally committed to Minnesota.

After players sign a National Letter of Intent, Monson is allowed to talk about a recruit for the first time.

u Concordia-St. Paul defeated Pulley 85-81 Monday.