Gophers dominate 133-67

Todd Zolecki

The Gophers men’s basketball team will face much better competition than the Lithuanian National team this season, but if Minnesota can have success in as many areas as it did Thursday night at Williams Arena, it just might have the season it has expected since March.
A game opening 20-0 run jump-started the Gophers to an easy 133-67 victory. The contest showcased an overdose of offense and a relentless pressing defense. It also provided the 10,117 fans with enough excitement to make it worth coming back to next week’s exhibition game against the Converse All-Stars.
After practicing against themselves since Oct. 15, the Gophers were ready to go out and finally beat somebody else.
They didn’t wait long, and they showed little mercy.
“It was easier,” Gophers freshman Russ Archambault said. “It was a lot easier. I mean going against Eric and Bobby everyday. I’m sure the others felt like that to when they first went out there.”
Archambault wasted no time once he stepped onto the court for the first time, just under five minutes into the game. He took the ball up the floor, pulled up and drained a three-pointer.
Coach Clem Haskins doesn’t usually let freshman get away with that.
“He wants to score and make something happen,” Haskins said. “Now he could have missed the shot. He made the shot. If he misses against a good ball club and they get the rebound, all of a sudden that’s a layup down at the other end, and I’d probably have to take him out of the game.”
No need to this time. Things were too easy, way too easy.
The Gophers’ size inside forced two Lithuanian players to foul out in the first half. Haskins said he hasn’t seen that happen since his playing days in the NBA.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Gophers senior Bobby Jackson said. “I was like, `He was gone already?'”
Unfortunately for Lithuania, its first player to foul out was its biggest, 203-pound Teisutis Kuzminskas, obviously no match for either John Thomas or Courtney James, who are both at least 70 pounds heavier.
Thomas finished the game with 18 points and 12 rebounds. James had 15 points, which included a few strong dunks. And once Kuzminskas was gone, there was little resistance to the Gophers inside game.
Even if things would have been a challenge in the paint, Jackson would have been there to bail them out. The senior scored a game-high 26 points, missing only four of his 15 field goal attempts. Jackson, billed as Minnesota’s top scoring threat, did it all in only 21 minutes of play.
Haskins said Minnesota accomplished most of its goals. Its defense never let up, the offense played well, it kept its turnovers down and everybody played who was available.
Nine players scored for Minnesota in the game’s first 10 minutes. For most of the game Haskins subbed his starting five with his second five off the bench. Both teams kept up with their smothering pace — perfect for Haskins, who doesn’t like to have one player be the team’s only scoring threat.
“That’s what I’m preaching,” he said. “People can stop one guy. We want eight to nine guys that can score, and I think you’ll find that we’ll have various guys in double figures every night.”
Notes: Former Gopher Mark Jones might havtese transferred this summer to Central Florida, but his jersey was put to good use. Goldy Gopher donned Jones’ No. 25.
Freshman forward Kyle Sanden did not play. He has suffered from concussions since the first day of practice.

GAME SUMMARY
Lithuania 33 34 — 67
Gophers 66 67 — 133

Scoring — Jacobson 6-12 4-5 16, James 4-4 7-10 15, J. Thomas 7-9 4-6 18, Jackson 11-15 1-2 26, Harris 4-6 0-0 8, Winter 3-5 0-0 6, Lewis 4-10 3-5 11, C. Thomas 5-8 2-2 13, Archambault 3-5 2-2 9, Tarver 0-2 1-5 1, Stauber 3-4 0-2 7, Ja. Stanford 1-1 1-2 3, Je. Stanford 0-1 0-0 0.
Rebounds — J. Thomas 12, Lewis 8, Tarver 7, James 6.