Men’s hoops win despite lackluster effort

by Jabari Ritchie

Late in the first half of Minnesota’s game against Texas-Pan American’s men’s basketball team, the Williams Arena crowd cheered as a Broncs 10-second violation gave the Gophers possession of the ball.

With 3:05 remaining in the half, the home team only held a 30-28 lead.

Although Minnesota (4-1) went on a 16-2 run to grab a 12-point advantage at the end of the first en route to an 89-72 victory, many Gophers were not pleased with the effort.

“Personally, going into the game I didn’t even think they’d get a chance to tie the game at that point,” said Minnesota forward Dusty Rychart, who shot 67 percent with 18 points and six rebounds. “You can’t come in loose against a team like this that wants to beat you and make a national statement. You’ve got to come in here mentally prepared.”

While Rychart was upset with his team’s performance, Gophers coach Dan Monson said the Broncs contributed to Minnesota’s struggles.

“Obviously, it wasn’t our best game of the year and we wanted to play better, but a lot of that has to do with how they played us,” he said. “I told our team afterwards that I don’t think we’re tight enough. That’s a credit to what they did to us, but also this young team’s got to learn from that.”

Despite taking control of the game at the end of the first, the Gophers couldn’t put Texas-Pan American away early in the second. The Broncs (4-2) scored the first six points of the half.

Minnesota finally knocked its opponent out of the contest late in the second when the Gophers went on a 12-2 run, highlighted by a tomahawk dunk by forward Michael Bauer.

“We kind of had it, but we didn’t have it,” guard Travarus Bennett said about the late spurt. “We were only up by about 12 points and in the game of college basketball, 12 points can disappear like that.

“In the Wake Forest game, we were up by eight points with a minute and a half to go and we didn’t hold them. I think that stays in everybody’s mind the way that we let that game go.”

Bennett, who was injured at the beginning of the season, enjoyed his best performance of the season with 19 points and three blocks. He shot 62 percent from the field and made three of four three-point attempts.

On the other hand, freshman forward Rick Rickert posted the least impressive performance of his Minnesota career. He missed all four of his three-point attempts, had no blocks and scored just eight points on 15 shots.

“Rick, obviously, didn’t have one of his better games,” Monson said. “Like I told him after the game, I think he fell into the same trap that Kevin Burleson and Bauer did against Wake Forest. He wanted to fix it with his shot instead of trusting all of us to fix it together.”

Burleson and Bauer, who combined to shoot eight of 30 in last week’s loss to the Demon Deacons, only took 10 shots on Saturday.

Burleson shot three of four with 10 points and six assists.

“I challenged our team on shot selection a little bit this week, and I think they responded very well,” Monson said. “The older kids need to set an example on that, and I think they did tonight. Burleson and Bauer even passed some up that you’d want them to take, but I think that is proving to their teammates that they want to make an extra pass and get on the same page.”

Jabari Ritchie covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]