Gophers makes quick and easy work of D-III Tommies

Players said they were encouraged by the Gophers’ first exhibition game.

Bob Wothe

From the very beginning Saturday, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team played with the defensive energy and offensive spark that was nonexistent for much of last year.

Of course, these things become easier against a Division III opponent.

“The athlete discrepancy was a little bit noticeable,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said after his team’s 91-50 win over St. Thomas at Williams Arena. “When it comes to Big Ten and Division I games, we won’t be able to out-athlete people like we did in this one.”

The athletic void aside, Monson said he was still pleased with the way his young team came out and played from the opening tip.

Minnesota freshman forward Dan Coleman scored the Gophers’ first five points and seven of the team’s first 10 as the team opened up an early 27-9 lead.

Senior center Jeff Hagen got to the line early and often, shooting 9-for-12 and helping to increase the lead to 44-24 at half.

From there, the Gophers opened up the second half with a 17-2 run, extending their lead to 35. That only increased until Minnesota’s largest lead of the game at 87-42 with 3:32 left.

In all, 13 Gophers saw playing time and 12 scored. For a team that set forth the goal of having fun this season, it did just that Saturday, frequently smiling, yelling and exchanging high fives after unselfish play resulted in a score.

But although Monson said the game was certainly a positive for the team, he urged caution in taking the results of this game to foreshadow the upcoming season.

“I thought this was a pretty typical exhibition game in that it was mostly for figuring out what Monday’s practice will entail,” Monson said. “But (St. Thomas forward Isaac) Rosefelt showed us that we’ve got some post work to do defensively.”

Rosefelt scored the first eight points for the Tommies but got two early fouls and had to leave the game with the score at 13-9. That allowed Minnesota’s size to completely dominate the smaller St. Thomas squad from then on.

Coleman, who was matched up on Rosefelt early, said that while it felt good to get out and play a game, the team still has to improve for Division I play.

“We’ve still got a lot of things to polish up,” Coleman said. “We still need more focus and intensity on defense.”

But for a team that plans on playing three freshmen in its top seven, the 19-assist, 10-block, 10-steal performance was a promising start on the whole.

“I just liked the identity that this team has,” Hagen said. “We made mistakes, but we fought through them and always kept our heads up.”