Rockin’ crowd sees a Minnesota win

For Gophers fans, Tuesday night was something to get excited about. In their first game against a major-conference team, the Gophers flustered the Virginia offense and pulled away in the second half, beating the Cavaliers 66-56 in front of the second-largest crowd of the season at Williams Arena. The Gophers improved to 7-0 and gave the Big Ten its third win in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. A crowd of 12,424 showed up, second to only the North Dakota State game which had a large North Dakota contingent, and was, easily, the loudest game of the season. At one point, during a 12-0 Gophers run in the first half, Virginia had to call two timeouts within one minute and 10 seconds of each other. Virginia also turned the ball over 19 times, one shy of a season-high. âÄúIt was a big help tonight,âÄù coach Tubby Smith said. âÄúYou can feed off that energy from the crowd.âÄù True freshman center Colton Iverson led the Gophers in scoring for the second time in three games, with 14 points and seven rebounds. Lawrence Westbrook added 13 points and Blake Hoffarber had 12. Iverson scored 20 points against Eastern Washington a week ago, and has become MinnesotaâÄôs top big man. He has been battling with fellow freshman big man Ralph Sampson III for time, and looked much more impressive Tuesday. Sampson played 17 minutes but didnâÄôt have a point and had just one rebound. His father, Ralph Sampson Jr., played for Virginia and was the only player ever to win three Player of the Year awards. Virginia outrebounded the Gophers 40-32, but Minnesota used a pressing defensive attack to create 10 steals and block seven shots. Damian Johnson, with his hand in a bandage after fracturing it early in the year, had three blocks to go along with his six points. Along with their big first half run, Minnesota went on a 10-0 run to start the second half that gave them a comfortable lead the rest of the way. âÄúWe have a lot of scorers and shooters on this team,âÄù Westbrook said. âÄúEven though we didnâÄôt shoot the ball very well tonight, I think weâÄôre definitely capable of having those big streaks and scoring a lot.âÄù Of course, while Virginia may be the best team Minnesota has played this year, theyâÄôre no Duke or North Carolina. Coaches picked them to finish last in the ACC before the season after losing their best player, point guard Sean Singletary, to graduation. The Cavaliers came into the game on a two-game losing streak, which included an embarrassing loss to Liberty. They shot just 32.1 percent from the floor Tuesday and had 20 personal fouls. âÄúThis helps us understand that we can play with those teams at that level,âÄù Smith said. âÄúEven though Virginia isnâÄôt playing at that level at this point in time, if we play the way we played at certain times, we can play with anybody.âÄù