Gophers fall to Harlem 79-70

by Jabari Ritchie

After Minnesota’s men’s basketball team got off to a promising start in its first exhibition game of the season, the Harlem Globetrotters showed their hosts why they only lose about once every 300 games.

The Globetrotters rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to defeat the Gophers 79-70 at Williams Arena on Thursday. It was Harlem’s third straight victory after having a 284-game win streak snapped last week.

“What we showed is we have the ability to play at a very high level, and we also have the ability to be as bad as any team that we play this year,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “We were a very good basketball team when things were going good and we were a horrendous basketball team when things went bad.”

Led by strong play by freshman forward Rick Rickert, who had 14 points and six rebounds at the break, the Gophers outplayed their opponents for most of the first half.

“I went out there and tried to do my best,” said Rickert, who had a .667 field goal percentage and made two three-pointers. “It was really exciting in the first half when we were all playing well together.”

Minnesota’s early dominance was highlighted by a 10-0 run late in the half. In the last seven minutes of the first, the Gophers outscored Harlem 21-7 to take a 44-35 halftime lead.

But once the second half began, Minnesota suffered from poor shooting and the inability to overcome the Globetrotters’ defensive adjustments.

“Once we lost (concentration), we didn’t get it back and it snowballed,” said junior guard Kevin Burleson. “When things went bad, we didn’t try to concentrate, slow down and fix them. We just kept speeding ourselves up.”

Using a half-court trap to halt the Gophers’ offense, Harlem controlled the second. The Globetrotters outscored Minnesota 31-7 in the first 12 minutes and led by as many as 18 points.

“The only concern I had was that we broke,” Monson said. “I never said that last year one time when I came into this locker room. With our basketball team last year, we had problems and we lost games, but we never broke like this team did.”

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, the Gophers were just 8 of 31 in the second.

“We didn’t have that killer instinct, never die attitude toward the end,” Burleson said. “Everybody was trying to fix it themselves and we’re not a good enough team to do that. We’re a great team when we play together. That’s what we didn’t do in the second half.”

Rickert and sophomore forward Michael Bauer each finished with 18 points to lead Minnesota. Bauer and Rickert combined for five of the teams’ six three pointers.

While the Gophers were not pleased with the end result of Thursday’s game, they were able to win the rebound battle over the Globetrotters. After its last scrimmage, rebounding had been a concern for Minnesota, which held a 43-36 advantage on the glass.

Senior forward Dusty Rychart pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.

“Our coaches were kind of surprised today. They didn’t think we could rebound that well,” said Bauer, who had five boards. “That was our focus the whole time.”