Men’s hoops find layups plentiful in rout of Team Nike

by Anthony Maggio

Pre-game layup drills generally aren’t indicative of what a game is going to be like, but Minnesota’s men’s basketball team didn’t seem to understand that on Sunday.

The Gophers ran past, sliced through and generally shredded Team Nike’s defense in their final exhibition game en route to a 115-71 blowout in front of 10,917 fans at Williams Arena.

“Our point guards were pushing the ball up the court great in transition and that led to easy layups for them and the rest of the guys,” forward Michael Bauer said.

Bauer led the way for the Gophers with 19 points, including 5-of-7 shooting from three-point land.

But the story of the game was layups, lots of them.

Minnesota made 13 layups in the first half, good for over half of the point total.

The Gophers earned 14 easy-ones in the second half thanks to continued aggressive and unselfish play.

Minnesota dished out 25 assists as a team, including a team-leading seven from Kevin Burleson. Six Gophers finished with double figures in scoring.

“I’ve got so many options, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t average that many assists,” Burleson said. “That’s how we want to play ñ move the ball around.”

But the biggest concern after the Gophers’ first exhibition game was the defense and rebounding. Minnesota showed significant improvements in both areas, forcing 20 turnovers and a 39.7 shooting percentage from Team Nike.

The Gophers won the rebounding battle 51-27.

“We were better rebounding and defensively today and those are things we’ve really harped on,” coach Dan Monson said. “I think we’re making strides in a direction we want to go.”

In the first exhibition game, Minnesota gave up 40 rebounds to Minnesota State, Mankato, including 16 on the offensive end.

On Sunday, the Gophers allowed Team Nike only eight offensive boards.

Besides the focus on defense and rebounding in practice, Minnesota was helped by the return of Maurice Hargrow and Jerry Holman, who sat out the first exhibition game because of violating unspecified team rules.

Hargrow finished with 17 points, six boards, five assists, and three steals.

“I was just trying to make a statement to come out and show the fans what I’m about this season,” Hargrow said. “And that is to be aggressive.”