Inside work propels Gophers past Warriors in second half

by Anthony Maggio

For 28 minutes, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team couldn’t get over the hump.

Things bottomed out when the Gophers found themselves down nine with just over 17 minutes to play.

Then Minnesota’s offense decided to attack the paint.

“We had some success doing it early in the game and then we got away from it,” Gophers guard Maurice Hargrow said. “We’d be fools if we stayed away from it.”

Trailing 50-41, Hargrow received a kick-out from Kevin Burleson and drained a three. Jerry Holman hit a short jumper on the next possession, and then responded to a Hawaii bucket with another jumper.

Ben Johnson followed with a steal on defense and scored in the paint on the other end. Then Holman hit another jumper to tie the game.

“I was waiting for someone to pass it in there,” coach Dan Monson said. “We were really perimeter oriented until that point and then the ball got in there and Jerry just slowed down and finished.”

Burleson stole a pass on the perimeter and finished with a layup at the 10:47 mark to put the Gophers up 57-56, and Minnesota never relinquished the lead en route to its 84-70 victory.

Holman finished with 10 second-half points on his way to 14, and Hargrow scored 16 in the second stanza to give him a game high 22. Johnson added a season-high 18 points.

“Their defense was a denial, in your face defense,” Johnson said. “Once you got it in the post it was so spread that if you’d make cuts you’d get wide open baskets. When we started to move more it really opened things up.”

Road weary Warriors

After playing in the Western Athletic Conference tournament and at UNLV in the first road of the NIT, Hawaii has been home for only 21 hours in the last two weeks.

Warriors’ coach Riley Wallace said his team was worn down by the end of Monday’s game with Minnesota. He even joked about how much time his team has spent on a plane this season.

“Every time you get on a flight you hope it’s at least five hours,” Wallace said. “Otherwise we’re floating.

“But these guys have done all right.”

Fun with the fans

When Hawaii center Nkeruwem Akpan fouled out with 3:33 to play, the fans started the “left-right-left-right” chant as he walked to the bench. But as the fans screamed “sit-down,” Akpan pretended to sit down, but got back up and smiled at the crowd. He spent the next five minutes, including a timeout, keeping the student section occupied by pretending to sit down and getting back up again.

When he finally sat down, he got a round of applause from the Gophers faithful.

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]