Offense explodes for men’s hoops in three wins

Brian Hall

It was another Saturday against a ranked opponent, another matchup against a top-ranked defense, and once again a decisive Minnesota win.

It was also the third straight game in which the Gophers set the mark for most opponents’ points given up by Ohio State, Penn State and Indiana all season.

Lately, Minnesota has looked more like Loyola Marymount or UNLV – run-and-gun teams of the late 1980’s – than a young Gophers squad.

Saturday against the Hoosiers, Minnesota scored 51 points in the second half alone. On Dec. 4, the Gophers failed to score 51 points against UNC-Wilmington the entire game.

Surprisingly, the secret to Minnesota’s success has been staying within the design of the offense.

“We have been trying to just follow what the coaches say and not break the offense,” point guard Kevin Burleson said. “Before we would get bored or do things we weren’t supposed to. Now we are sticking with the principles the coach sets for us no matter what’s going on. We have calmed down. We are poised and not rushing things.”

On Saturday, the Gophers turned an eight-point deficit into a one-point advantage in less than 4:00 using a number of different looks. A three-pointer from forward Rick Rickert, two buckets by junior Jerry Holman, a driving jumper by freshman Maurice Hargrow and a layup by senior Dusty Rychart put Minnesota ahead.

In all, eight Gophers scored during a seven-minute stretch in the second half while outscoring Indiana by 16 points.

“You can’t stop one guy on this team and think you are going to win,” Rychart said after Saturday’s game. “On any given game, any one of us can carry this team. Today we had the best balance we have had all season.”

A consistent inside attack from Rickert, Holman and Rychart has opened up the floor for the real strength of the team – its outside shooting. The dangerous combination leaves coach Dan Monson with only a bittersweet outlook.

“As a coach you are never happy,” Monson said. “But, our shot selection is getting better and we are making the extra pass. Our offense is ahead of our defense for sure”

Now the Gophers face a real test, travelling to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to face Iowa on Saturday.

The Gophers have averaged 66.7 points per game on the road versus 83 points per game at Williams Arena.

“One thing with a week off that you worry about is losing your offensive rhythm,” Monson said. “It’s a little like a golf swing. You can lose that rhythm.

“When you are playing this well offensively you don’t want a day off. You just want to keep playing.”

Rickert named player of the week

For his contribution in the Gophers latest two wins, Rickert was named the Big Ten Player of the Week.

The forward averaged 26.5 points per game on 60 percent shooting in wins over Penn State and Indiana.

Rickert is the first freshman to earn the award since then-Indiana, and current-Iowa, guard Luke Recker was recognized in Jan. 1998. The two will share the court this weekend in Iowa City.

Once again a testament of Minnesota’s depth, Rickert is the third Minnesota player to receive the honor this season as Bennett was a co-winner last week and Rychart was a co-winner in December.


Brian Hall covers men’s basketball and welcomes
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