Gophers take care of business in win

Minnesota dominated the Beavers inside but struggled on the perimeter on both sides of the ball in its exhibition opener.

Minnesota guard Austin Hollins makes a basket against Bemidgi State Nov. 2 at Williams Arena.

Minnesota guard Austin Hollins makes a basket against Bemidgi State Nov. 2 at Williams Arena.

by Charlie Armitz

The Gophers menâÄôs basketball team managed a 71-58 win Tuesday night at Williams Arena, but struggled with outside shooting and turnovers in its exhibition opener against Bemidji State.

Minnesota committed 10 of its 14 turnovers in the first half and shot just 1-for-7 from three-point range in a game that featured sloppy play from both teams.

The Gophers were the more physical team and showed it with a dominant inside performance âÄî Minnesota out rebounded Bemidji State 45-23 and held a 46-18 edge in points in the paint.

Trevor Mbakwe led the Gophers with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting and had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ralph Sampson III had 15 points, and Rodney Williams added 10 for Minnesota.

Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said the win will serve as a good learning experience for his young team, which remains a work in progress.

âÄúWe got just what we wanted,âÄù Smith said. âÄúWe knew that Bemidji would come in and do things that we havenâÄôt seen. We saw some things we need to work on. They gave us a chance to look at what we have to do defensively.âÄù

Minnesota struggled with its perimeter defense, allowing the Beavers to shoot 10-for-25 on 3-point attempts. Bemidji State forward David Berthene torched the Gophers with 21 points on 5-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc.

âÄúI think we just got caught out of position a couple of times,âÄù Mbakwe said. âÄúWe lacked intensity at times. When we picked it up, we were able to extend our lead a little bit.âÄù

Smith and his two star forwards all said the team looked nervous at times in its 2011-12 debut.

âÄúI think we all had a little jitters,âÄù Mbakwe said. âÄúI think after the first half, everybody settled down.âÄù

The Gophers started the game on an 8-0 run and led by 9 points at halftime.

In the second half, after Bemidji State cut MinnesotaâÄôs lead to 47-40, the Gophers went on a 14-2 run to put the game out of reach.

That run came with MinnesotaâÄôs starting lineup of Sampson III, Mbakwe, Williams, Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins on the floor.

When the GophersâÄô starters sat, the team struggled. MinnesotaâÄôs bench combined to score 16 points on just 7-for-21 shooting.

Andre Hollins had eight assists and no turnovers, which will likely make him the frontrunner for the point guard position.

âÄúI thought he had a good all-around game,âÄù Smith said. âÄúHeâÄôs a solid player. I would have liked to see him push it more.âÄù

Sampson III and Mbakwe both offered praise for the freshman as well.

âÄúI think he handled [his first game] pretty well,âÄù Sampson III said. âÄúHe didnâÄôt really seem to have a lot of jitters going, even though he was super excited for his first game. He handled the point guard position fairly well, bringing the ball up the court, shooting the ball, pushing when he needed to and scoring when he needed to score.âÄù

Smith stressed coming into the game that he wants his team to play faster this year.

With 12 fast break points, the Gophers did that on occasion âÄî but frequently stumbled with poor ball handling and missed opportunities at the rim.

âÄúWeâÄôve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball,âÄù Smith said.