Men’s hoops whips Russians

Michael Dougherty

It was hardly Big Ten-caliber competition, but the Gophers’ win over the Ural Great Russian professional team provided a sneak preview of what could become the Joel Przybilla show.
The freshman center from Monticello, Minn., scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots in Minnesota’s 84-68 win at Williams Arena.
Despite the inclement weather, nearly 12,000 fans showed up to watch the exhibition game and catch a glimpse of a handful of newcomers who figure to help the Gophers this season.
Minnesota coach Clem Haskins used several different combinations on the floor, and all 14 players saw time.
One of the newcomers who started his Gophers career on the wrong foot was point guard Terrance Simmons, a transfer from Louisiana State. In fact, Haskins called his play “awful.
“He’s a much, much better player than he showed tonight,” Haskins said.
Freshman Nick Sinville showed some good rebounding skills and the ability to bang in the middle. And guard Mitch Ohnstad, from Faribault, Minn., dished out six assists and showed some good defense.
But Quincy Lewis and Kevin Clark are the clear leaders of this team, and they showed it Monday night. Clark scored 14 points and Lewis had 17 to go along with six rebounds and five steals.
Przybilla clearly stole the spotlight, however, with two nasty blocked shots, a nice dunk and nifty passing down low.
Haskins said the 7-footer played well, but that he needs to do a better job boxing out under the basket.
“Joel popped out and hit a few shots and I was pleased with that,” Haskins said.
In broken English, Russian coach Pavel Googe said Przybilla was “the best player out there tonight. He’s good in transition and had four blocks. I like him.”
The first half started out rough for the Gophers, with some sloppy play and a lack of rebounding — something Haskins said needs a lot of work.
But Minnesota regrouped at halftime and came out with some renewed intensity.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys and they try too hard and mess up because of some jitters,” said Lewis, who scored a quick seven points to open the second half.
Simmons’ subpar start was particularly worrisome for Haskins, who expected the sophomore to take over at the Gophers’ primary ball handler.
But Haskins reiterated the point guard position will be a “position by committee,” and added the ball handling and rebounding was a glaring weakness.
Przybilla’s play should take away some of Haskins’ pain. The Przybilla-Kyle Sanden combination down low looked to be a formidable frontcourt.
“They take up so much space and it clears out the middle for us,” Clark said. “It’s nice to have the big guys there for us.”