Hot start, shooting carries Gophers to win

Minnesota began Tuesday’s game on an 18-0 run and never looked back.

by Marco LaNave

Plenty of fans were delayed to Tuesday nightâÄôs menâÄôs basketball game at Williams Arena , and the Gophers almost didnâÄôt give the late arrivers a game to watch. Minnesota (6-3) jumped out to an 18-0 lead in less than the first six minutes on its way to a 94-64 victory over Morgan State (5-4) in front of more than 11,000 people that made the game in spite of the Minneapolis snowfall. The GophersâÄô streaking offense fed the early defense, as Morgan State trailed 9-0 before attempting a shot and didnâÄôt score for the first 7:31. âÄúThatâÄôs just going to take the life out of them,âÄù said senior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who had four assists and four steals. âÄúTheyâÄôre a fast-paced team, and thatâÄôs going to make them force things because theyâÄôre trying to score 18 points with one bucket.âÄù The GophersâÄô first team was nearly flawless in the opening stretch. The starting five made eight of its first 12 shots and had eight assists, five steals and just one turnover in the first 6:19. Junior guard Blake Hoffarber provided an offensive spark for the second straight game, as he made eight of 11 field goals and scored 18 points, most of them coming on layups off of passes from teammates. âÄúLast year I âĦ would stand out at the 3-point line,âÄù said Hoffarber, who has started the last two games as MinnesotaâÄôs third guard, forcing him to play against bigger opposing players. âÄúThis year IâÄôm trying to get some easy 2âÄôs, get some put-backs, get some rebounds.âÄù Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said the three-guard lineup of Westbrook, who scored 14 points, Hoffarber and junior Al Nolen, who had 5 points, six assists and five rebounds on Tuesday, forces opponents to stretch their defense. âÄú[Hoffarber] moves so well without the ball,âÄù Smith said. âÄúWeâÄôve got better spacing with him out there on the court.âÄù Senior forward Damian Johnson scored 11 points but left the game three minutes into the second half with what appeared to be an injury to his right wrist, which caused him to miss the first three games of 2008-09. âÄúHeâÄôs had that stiff wrist,âÄù Smith said. âÄúI donâÄôt think he will need [X-rays]; I think he just sprained it again.âÄù The Gophers had scored inside with relative ease in the first half, but the Bears forced them into a more contested battle after intermission. Morgan StateâÄôs pressure forced 13 second-half turnovers, but the Gophers only allowed 9 points off of those miscues. Bears guard Reggie Holmes scored a game-high 26 points but made just nine of 28 field-goal attempts. The second half resembled the physical play the Gophers will face in Big Ten games. The two teams committed 35 fouls in the second half. Bears coach Todd Bozeman was called for a technical foul after his players had already been called for four fouls in the first 3:30 of the second half. Forward Kevin Thompson, who scored 17 points and had 19 rebounds, committed four fouls âÄî including one technical âÄî in a 2:24 stretch late in the second half. Three players fouled out for Morgan State. Minnesota was able to capitalize with its free-throw shooting, which had been poor in recent games. The Gophers made 27 of 39 attempts in the second half to account for more than half their points in the final 20 minutes.