Two of Big Ten’s best square off in Gophers win

Michael Dougherty

Michigan’s Louis Bullock came out on top in the scoring race, but Quincy Lewis and the Gophers men’s basketball team came out on top of what’s more important — another conference win, 76-70, at William’s Arena Wednesday night.
Lewis (22.6 points per game) and Bullock (21 ppg) entered the game ranked first and second in the conference in scoring, and both players did their best to up their averages.
Bullock scored 33, one off his career high, and Lewis poured in 30, thanks in large part to his 15-of-16 showing at the free throw line.
The charity stripe was what allowed the Gophers to keep Michigan (9-10 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten) at arm’s length during the game. Minnesota (12-3, 3-2) hit its first 25 free throws before Miles Tarver missed two with just over seven minutes left in the game.
Despite the Tarver misses, the Gophers hit 34-of-39 (87 percent) free throws on the night. This was a remarkable feat for a team who entered the game ranked 10th in the conference at 64 percent.
But the great free throw shooting aside, it was the scoring duel between Bullock and Lewis which was the story of the game.
Gophers’ coach Clem Haskins said the two seniors are very similar players.
“He’s like Bullock, if they get good looks at the basket they’ll knock it down,” Haskins said of Lewis. “I think Quincy is the MVP of the Big Ten so far.”
At halftime, with the Gophers nursing a 35-29 lead, Lewis had outscored Bullock 12-10. However, Bullock came on like gangbusters after intermission, hitting five-of-seven three pointers and five straight free throws.
“He’s capable of scoring numbers like that if he gets the shots,” Wolverines coach Brian Ellerbe said of Bullock. “There’s no two or three better shooters in America.”
Bullock scored his points despite some physical defense from Gophers guard Kevin Nathaniel. Bullock also played 39 minutes as the Wolverines only played seven players.
Bullock said off-season conditioning prepared him for playing a lot of minutes. Consequently, Ellerbe and Nathaniel both praised Bullock for his stamina.
“I think our guys were fresh,” Ellerbe said. “I constantly talk to my guards to see if they’re OK, and we can tell when they are winded. Guards don’t shoot the ball like that if they’re tired.”
Nathaniel, meanwhile, said he couldn’t believe how active Bullock was in the Wolverines’ screen offense.
“I was waiting for him to tire out,” Nathaniel said, “but he just kept going.”
Both Bullock and Lewis had nothing but compliments for each other after the game. But Lewis was a little disappointed in himself for letting Bullock score more.
“How much did he end up with?” Lewis asked, and when he found out Lewis said, “Dang, man. It’s hard to stop him.”
Bullock said he knows he and Lewis are the premier scorers in the league, and was waiting for the matchup.
“Lewis is playing phenomenal,” Bullock said. “It’s the last go-around for both of us, and we both want to make it memorable.”