Monson unhappy with exhibition at Williams

C.J. Spang

I was happy it got over.”

That was the only positive Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson could come up with after Saturday’s exhibition opener, a 59-50 win over Southwest Minnesota State.

“Exhibition games are to find out what you need to work on,” Monson said. “I think we certainly accomplished that, almost to a scary level.

“We better face reality and get to work because we’ve got a lot to do.”

The Gophers started out well, jumping out to a 9-2 lead after getting points from four of five starters.

But then Minnesota went cold and made only one of its next 12 shots.

The Mustangs did not capitalize right away, as they went on a drought of their own, managing only one point in a six-minute span.

However, Southwest did not let Minnesota’s poor shooting continue to go unpunished.

The Mustangs ended the drought by hitting three straight shots in a minute and half – all three-pointers – and took the lead 16-15 with 7:35 remaining in the half.

But the Gophers did not let the Mustangs keep their lead for long.

After a timeout, Minnesota went on a 17-4 run to close the half, including eight points from senior guard Maurice Hargrow, and took a 32-20 halftime lead.

Minnesota kept its momentum to start the second half, holding Southwest to just six points in the first 10 minutes of the half.

Then things started to unravel.

Over the final 10 minutes of the contest, the Mustangs scored 24 of their 50 points, thanks to some poor defense by Minnesota.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as disappointed in a team that gave up 50, ever, because I thought it was how we gave up the 50,” Monson said. “We didn’t dictate their shots all game.”

Senior Vincent Grier was the game’s leading scorer with 18 points. Hargrow added another 16 points and senior Adam Boone had seven assists. Chad Orum led the Mustangs with 13 points.

A big question for Minnesota this season is whether someone can step up and replace seven-foot center Jeff Hagen.

Sophomore Spencer Tollackson saw the most time down low and had six points and six rebounds in the game.

“I think there was a lot of things I can improve on,” Tollackson said. “But my main thing tonight was just try to play hard.”

Tollackson certainly showed that hustle early in the game.

After a Minnesota miss, the ball bounced away from the play and toward press row. The six-foot-nine-inch center dove out for the ball, flying over press row, and nearly into the first row of seats to get the loose ball.

Other than the team’s starting five, Minnesota didn’t get much production.

“I’m really concerned about our depth,” Monson said. “Besides the guys that are proven, I don’t think anybody stepped up and understood the intensity and level we gotta play at.”

Center Jonathan Williams led the freshmen with five points, guard Jamal Abu-Shamala had three and guard Brandon Smith had two – a pair of free throws he banked in.

“(The freshmen) played pretty well,” Hargrow said. “This is their first game on this type of stage. I’m sure the next outing they’ll do better.”

Both players and coaches explained it was the team’s first live game of the season, and there are plenty more games to be played.

“There were a lot of good things, there were a lot of bad things, but I guess that’s what this first game was about,” Hargrow said. “Seeing what you need to work on and making those strides for the end of the season.”