Men’s BB: Gophers upset No. 9 Louisville

by Trevor Born

Well, the Gophers proved that their undefeated record was no fluke.

In their biggest nonconference game in several years, the unranked Gophers upset No. 9 Louisville 70-64 Saturday.

Not only did they upset them — which should silence concerns about their previously-light nonconference schedule — but they did it convincingly. Minnesota never trailed after Louisville’s 2-0 lead, and only let the game get tied once (11-11). They led by double digits for most of the game, though Louisville did pull close at the end.

Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber — the entirety of the 2007 recruiting class — led the team in scoring, with 18 and 15, respectively.

Gophers coach Tubby Smith coached under Louisville coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky, and the two are reportedly pretty good friends. The Gophers were ready for anything Pitino threw at them, especially shutting down center Samardo Samuels. They held Samuels, Louisville’s leading scorer coming into the game, to just seven points before fouling out.

It was a sloppy game in terms of fouling, with the Gophers committing 24 fouls and Louisville committing 21. Junior Lawrence Westbrook, an Arizona-native, got into foul trouble early and spent much of the game on the bench. The Gophers leading scorer, averaging more than 14 points-per-game coming in, finished with just two points — both on free throws.

It was Minnesota’s first win over a top-10 team since the 1999-2000 season, when they beat No. 9 Indiana.

Louisville was the highest-ranked nonconference team the Gophers had played since No. 5 Oregon in 2002. They lost that game, dropping out of the top-25, and haven’t returned. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up next week with this win over a team that was ranked No. 3 just three weeks ago.