Clem Haskins didn’t like it when the Gophers men’s basketball team allowed 67 points in an exhibition game last week against Lithuania. The coach constantly preaches defense and when his team allowed more than the 62-point pregame goal, he promised his players would reward him the next day by running some “suicides” during practice.
Players can expect to run today if Haskins set a similar quota Thursday night against the Converse All-Stars. Minnesota held off the All-Stars 105-91 in front of 11,115 fans at Williams Arena. After the game, Haskins expressed his disappointment in the defensive effort.
And when Haskins mentions it in his postgame press conference, it’s a safe bet he mentioned it in the locker room.
“Too much,” Gophers senior Bobby Jackson said. “Too much.”
“We got a little bit,” junior Sam Jacobson said. “That’s Coach Haskins. He knows what he’s talking about.”
Not that the whole 40 minutes was a complete wash. Haskins said he thought his team played well in spots.
“It was just a tune-up, but overall a pretty good game,” he said.
He said Wednesday he expected Converse to be a tough test before the Gophers open the regular season Nov. 23 against Stephen F. Austin.
The All-Stars, made up from a bunch of former college standouts, dropped close games to three top 25 teams before Thursday’s contest. They lost by 11 points to No. 10 Duke, seven points to No. 13 Arkansas and five points to No. 21 Boston College.
“You’re going to have a good season,” Converse coach Mickey Walker said. “I assure you.”
Converse sponsored more than one team during the preseason so Walker hasn’t seen every All-Stars foe. But he did coach games against Duke, Miami, Florida State and California. He said the Gophers played more together than some teams he has seen.
“One of my kids that played a lot came out of the game and said they looked like they’ve played together for three years,” Walker said. “It looked like their continuity was a lot further along. Kids understood what each other did on the court and played to the strengths of their teammates.”
Just as Haskins has preached in practice, Minnesota distributed the ball on offense and didn’t rely on one or two players to provide most of its points. Eight Gophers scored in the first half.
By the end, Minnesota had seven players in double digits. Sophomore forward Courtney James led the charge with a game-high 22 points. His scoring spree included slam dunks off rebounds and one coast-to-coast score off a steal.
“I was going to give it up,” James said of his coast-to-coast lay-in.
Haskins said James missed some easy shots, but wants him to continue to shoot. James also grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Courtney James kicked our ass,” Walker said.
Walker expected John Thomas (13 points, four rebounds) to dominate the game, but he said every Gophers player contributed to their loss.
Minnesota now focuses toward the regular season when games start adding up to a postseason tournament appearance.
“We’ve got a good group of kids,” Jackson said. “When we get rolling and playing defense, I think it’s going to be hard to stop us.”
Notes: Sophomore forward Miles Tarver did not dress. Haskins said Tarver was sick.
About 2,500 tickets remain for the Gophers game against West Virginia on Nov. 26 at Target Center.
Converse 40 51 — 91
Gophers 57 48 — 105
Scoring — James 10-17 2-5 22, Jacobson 7-14 0-1 14, J. Thomas 6-8 1-4 13, Jackson 4-10 5-6 13, Harris 6-11 2-2 14, Archambault 1-2 2-4 4, Winter 4-6 3-3 11, Lewis 4-12 2-2 10, C. Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Ja. Stanford 1-1 2-2 4, Je. Stanford 0-0 0-1 0, Stauber 0-0 0-0 0.
Rebounding — Jackson 11, James 10, Jacobson 9, Lewis 7.