Grier’s transition keys team’s second half

Junior college transfer Vincent Grier is finding a home in the up-and-down game.

Dan Miller

Minnesota’s basketball team now officially has a “one-man fast break.”

In the midst of Minnesota’s late 18-0 run Saturday against Central Michigan, Gophers junior guard Vincent Grier made two high-flying dunks that electrified the Williams Arena crowd.

Grier now leads the Big Ten in scoring, and most of those points have come in transition.

After Saturday’s late comeback win over the Chippewas, it seems the Gophers are most comfortable when they’re pushing the ball up the court in transition – with Grier leading the way.

“I think one of the greatest assets of my game is in transition,” Grier said.

Minnesota point guard Aaron Robinson added: “You saw him out there. You just have to get him the ball down the court.”

Grier isn’t the only one in on the action. With athletic and quick guards such as Robinson and freshman Rico Tucker, transition has become the way to go.

“We have been practicing throwing the ball to the wings and getting the ball up the court,” Robinson said.

Grier’s scoring contribution has been directly correlated to how well the Gophers’ fast-break offense and pressure defense are working.

The Gophers scored two fast-break points in the first half Saturday while Grier had three points. In the second half, the Gophers scored 12 fast-break points, and Grier scored 16 points.

It was when Grier stole the ball and dunked on a breakaway with 6:52 remaining that the Gophers put the game out of the Chippewas’ reach.

Grier, who was courted by Oklahoma and Arizona as well as Minnesota out of Dixie State Junior College, said he felt Minnesota was the best fit for him.

It appears he made a good call.

After finishing with 19 points Saturday, he is averaging 19.3 points per game and has become what coach Dan Monson calls “arguably our best player.”

But Monson benched Grier early in the game, saying after the game that Grier wasn’t showing the emotion and aggressiveness that should come from one of the Gophers’ new leaders.

“After the first couple minutes, I realized that it wasn’t the same Vincent Grier that we’ve seen all year,” Monson said.

Down the stretch of the eight-game home stand, the problem that Grier and the Gophers will face is that it will become difficult to maintain a transition offense. Minnesota opens its Big Ten season Jan. 8 against Penn State.

So what Grier and the Gophers will have to prove is that they’re also able to create offensive opportunities for themselves in a slower-tempo, half-court-style game – the kind of game that is typical in the Big Ten.

Monson said he is convinced the Gophers’ quick and athletic backcourt with Grier and Tucker is a good start.

“I don’t think I’ve had as good of athletes, period, as those two guys,” Monson said. “Let alone on the same team.”