Minnesota men’s basketball team gets back on winning track

Adam Fink

On the first possession of the second half, Minnesota’s men’s basketball guard Adam Boone lobbed the ball to Kris Humphries for an emphatic slam dunk.

The basket pulled the Gophers to within one point of Wofford on Sunday afternoon and set the tone for the final 20 minutes of the game.

Using a rejuvenated defense, Minnesota turned a three point halftime deficit into an 82-70 win by utilizing its transition game and settling for short jumpers.

Early in the second half, the Gophers forced the Terriers, who shot 52 percent in the opening 20 minutes, to miss more attempts which gave Minnesota the opportunity to push the ball and attack the basket.

It lead to 10 second-half fast break points and ignited a 16-2 run in the opening six minutes of the stanza.

“We are not going to fix the defense in one or two days,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “It’s January and we are playing like it is still November.”

Guard Ben Johnson capitalized the most. Johnson scored 13 of his 19 points after the intermission and helped Minnesota (7-4) build a 50-39 lead with 12:43 remaining.

The senior scored seven points in that stretch, all in transition.

“Whenever you get easy baskets, you can get the momentum your way,” Johnson said. “We knew it was going to be one of those games.”

Humphries, the Gophers stellar freshman, also did his part on both ends of the court.

Monson said one of the biggest lapses on defense came from the interior in the first half. In the second half, the Gophers fifth-year coach said it was much improved.

“It’s just effort,” the forward said. “It’s about playing hard.”

In the first half, Wofford post players Tyler Berg, Howard Wilkerson, Sam Daniels and Greg Taylor combined to shoot 10-for-13.

In the second half, those four players shot 9-for-16 for the Terriers (3-7).

“We watched film of these players,” said Moe Hargrow, who added 19 points and seven rebounds. “We knew what they could do.”

Humphries also made his presence felt, shooting 7-for-10 in the second half en route to a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Despite the vastly different defensive effectiveness in the two halves, the Gophers are confident they are ready to open the Big Ten season Wednesday at Penn State.

Hargrow, who gave the defense to this point a rating of six out of 10 stars, said it is constantly improving.

And Monson has noticed improvements.

“We’re not miles away, but we’re not there yet,” Monson said. “We played 10 minutes of (defense) where it needs to be. Now we need to improve that to 40 minutes.”

Hagen sits out

Center Jeff Hagen, who has battled an ankle injury for more than one month, sat out Sunday’s victory after his ankle swelled up following the flight home from Texas Tech.

Hagen played 16 minutes against the Raiders on Jan.1. Monson said Hagen could have been used Sunday in case of an emergency.

The left ankle has bothered Hagen since he sprained it Nov. 24 in practice.