Gophers steal a win from Santa Clara

With a season high 18 steals, the Gophers’ defensive pressure helped them continue their unbeaten streak at home

Luke Middendorf

With a 10 game layoff after its narrow victory over South Dakota State, Minnesota’s defense came prepared and rested to steal a 68-50 win over Santa Clara on Saturday.

The Gophers’ latest mountain to climb was the Broncos 6-foot, 10-inch John Bryant, who came in averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds a game.

But Minnesota was able to hold Bryant to just 10 points and four rebounds, double-teaming the junior center each team he received the ball in the post.

“We tried to limit John Bryant’s touches, and I thought we did a good job of that,” coach Tubby Smith said after the game. “It was a true team effort to try and contain and control him.”

Senior forward Dan Coleman led the Gophers with 20 points, three blocks and a career high six steals, showing again why his athleticism and versatility fit perfectly in coach Smith’s system.

Three of Coleman’s steals ended in triumphant fast-break dunks, bringing the holiday crowd at Williams Arena to their feet.

“They’re energy plays,” Coleman said of his transition slams. “If you can get steals and dagger shots, it’s huge because it adds to your team and takes away from theirs.”

Fellow senior Lawrence McKenzie dropped in 11 points and five assists, finishing three-of-five from three point land.

Minnesota as a team also topped three season records against Santa Clara, combining for 18 steals, 26 forced turnovers and 18 assists.

The next test for the Gophers will be the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas from December 28-30, starting with a Nicholls State at 7 p.m.