Gophers barely get by DII Winona St. in final exhibition, 78-72

Gophers senior guard Al Nolen maneuvers around Warriors sophomore guard Xavier Humphrey Monday night at Williams Arena.

Mark Vancleave

Gophers senior guard Al Nolen maneuvers around Warriors sophomore guard Xavier Humphrey Monday night at Williams Arena.

Nate Gotlieb

While the Gophers didnâÄôt expect Winona State to be a push over Monday nightâÄôs exhibition didnâÄôt go as smoothly as expected.

The Division II Warriors didnâÄôt upset the Gophers like they did in 2006, but they hung with them Gophers all night before eventually falling 78-72.

After building a 50-point lead in their exhibition opener against Northeastern State, the Gophers only took a five point lead into halftime Monday. They built their lead up to 16 in the second half, but a blitz of 3-pointers from Winona StateâÄôs Jon Walburg helped the Warriors keep it close down the stretch.

âÄúAnytime you play any team, certainly WinonaâÄôs a team thatâÄôs won championships and knows how to execute, they have a very well-coached team, they really came ready to play,âÄù Gophers coach Tubby Smith said, âÄúThey really showed a lot of poise and a lot of toughness town the stretch there.

Walburg had 22 points and former Minnetonka prep standout Anthony Tucker added 24, helping the Warriors, ranked ninth in the Division II preseason poll, keep it close.

Winona State limited the Gophers to two 3-pointers and held a GophersâÄô offense that had scored 109 points the game before to just 24 field goals.

While the Warriors were plagued by foul trouble, allowing the Gophers the double bonus midway through the both halves, the Gophers struggled to convert from the free-throw line and finished just 28 of 46.

The Gophers also turned the ball over 22 times and struggled in transition throughout the night.

âÄú(We need to) practice valuing the ball more,âÄù senior Al Nolen said.

Nolen was one of seven Gophers with eight or more points. Rodney Williams led the team with 12.

Freshman Mo Walker made his presence in the paint despite only playing 12 minutes, finishing with eight points and four rebounds.

âÄúHeâÄôs very fundamentally sound,âÄù Smith said, âÄúHe tried to overpass a few times, put it on the floor when he shouldnâÄôt have, a bunch of guys did that tonight.âÄù

Smith noted that Walker wasnâÄôt the only post player that made mistakes.

âÄúWhen youâÄôre post players are turning it over 15 times, thatâÄôs just too many turnovers for you post players,âÄù Smith said.

Junior Devoe Joseph was not in the lineup tonight. Coach Smith said that there are a number of factors that will contribute to whether he plays, although he would not comment on what the deciding factors are.

âÄúIâÄôm going to make some decisions about his status in about a day or two,âÄù Smith said. âÄúHeâÄôs fine. ItâÄôs not like he couldnâÄôt have played tonight.âÄù