Minnesota faces Augustana in final exhibition tune-up

Tubby Smith said Augustana could beat the Gophers if they struggle again.

Charlie Armitz

TheyâÄôre only exhibition games, but for the Gophers menâÄôs basketball team, theyâÄôre a cause for concern.

Minnesota wraps up its two-game exhibition schedule today against Division II powerhouse Augustana.

Head coach Tubby Smith said his team could be in trouble if it doesnâÄôt improve from its subpar performance in last TuesdayâÄôs 71-58 win over Bemidji State, another Division II foe.

âÄú[Augustana] is very capable of beating us, especially if we donâÄôt play better than we did the other night,âÄù Smith said. âÄúBut I know theyâÄôll play better, and thatâÄôs why you play exhibition games.âÄù

Although the Gophers defeated Bemidji State comfortably, they struggled with every aspect of the game except interior play, which they dominated.

To Smith, defense is the first priority.

âÄúThere are a lot of things that we didnâÄôt do right defensively,âÄù Smith said. âÄúGuarding the 3-point shot was one of them, and that was one of the problems we had last year.âÄù

Bemidji State shot 10-for-25 from 3-point range, and Smith expects Augustana to pose a similar threat.

âÄúThey shoot the ball extremely well from the outside,âÄù he said. âÄúTheir big men are mobile and can create the same sort of problems that Bemidji State created for us.âÄù

The Vikings, like the Beavers, are a member of the Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. They finished 15-7 in the conference last year (18-9 overall), and defeated Bemidji State 69-67 in the only meeting between the two teams in 2010-11.

Augustana averaged 76 points per game in 2010-11.

Smith, who has emphasized playing up-tempo basketball in 2011-12, said his team needs to push the ball more effectively.

âÄúWeâÄôve got to be able to score more âÄî thatâÄôs an area weâÄôre concerned about,âÄù Smith said. âÄúSeventy-one points is just not going to get it.âÄù

The GophersâÄô two star big men âÄî Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III âÄî carried the team Tuesday with 32 points and 15 rebounds combined.

Freshman Andre Hollins had eight assists and no turnovers and is presumed to be the leading candidate to start at point guard.

Junior college transfer Julian Welch is expected to play significant minutes after sitting out TuesdayâÄôs game with an ankle injury.

Sampson, along with Mbakwe and Smith, said the win over BSU was more of a learning experience than anything else.

âÄúThe game was just a test for us,âÄù Sampson said. âÄúIt was a good measuring stick.âÄù

MondayâÄôs game against Augustana will be the GophersâÄô last measuring stick before they host Bucknell on Nov. 11 to open the nonconference regular season.