Men’s hoops look to rebound against No. 17 Georgia

by Anthony Maggio

After his team blew a 23-point halftime lead Sunday to squeak by UNC Asheville by six, Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said his team wasn’t ready to play 17th-ranked Georgia.

They now have just four days.

The Gophers will get their first big test of the season Saturday from the Bulldogs, who trounced Minnesota by 22 points in Athens last season.

“It’s kind of a respect thing,” center Jerry Holman said. “We went to their house and they totally blew us out. We don’t want that to happen in our house.”

The 24th-ranked Gophers (1-0) were competitive on the boards with Georgia (1-1) last season, but not anywhere else.

This year, the biggest concern heading into the contest with the Bulldogs is rebounding.

In Minnesota’s contest with the undersized Bulldogs (the ones from Asheville) on Sunday, the Gophers gave up 18 offensive boards and were out-rebounded 42-35.

Georgia doesn’t have a player on its roster over 6-foot-8, but unlike UNC Asheville, they are all extremely athletic. And Monson knows quickness can easily overcome a height disadvantage.

“It will be a game, just like last year, where something has got to give,” Monson said. “Either they’re going to have difficulty with our size inside or we’re going to have difficulty with their quickness.

“What’s scary is a lot of times the advantage goes to the quick teams.”

In two games thus far, the Bulldogs are averaging 38 rebounds per game.

Leading the way for Georgia is forward Chris Daniels with nine boards per game, but not far behind is 6-foot-4 guard Ezra Williams with eight rebounds per contest.

This means the Gopher guards will have a big responsibility in the rebounding picture.

“A lot of times its kind of abnormal for a point guard to worry about his guy going to the boards,” guard Ben Johnson said. “But we’ll really have to emphasize on team rebounding and always knowing where our guys are.”

Another key for Minnesota is Holman’s contribution.

Holman played only 13 minutes against UNC Asheville last weekend because of foul trouble. But his presence will be crucial not only because of his height, but his defensive ability on the perimeter.

“Jerry is the one big guy we have that has quickness and athletic ability to guard a perimeter or 6-foot-6 guy,” Monson said. “So he’ll be very valuable to this game.”

Georgia already has a big game under its belt, losing by six to third-ranked Texas two weeks ago. Though this is only their second game of the regular season, the Gophers don’t expect nerves will be a factor on their end.

“I think a lot of guys are more excited than anything,” guard Kevin Burleson said. “We’ve been playing a lot this summer and we’ve just wanted to play a top team, we’ve been hungry for that. It’s going to be a fun time.”

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes

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