Gophers shake out season-opening jitters in exhibition win

John Hageman

The Gophers had their share of jitters in their first exhibition game of the 2010 season.

On their first possession, they werenâÄôt able to find an open look and failed to get a shot up before the shot clock ran out, and they traveled several times in the first half.

But the Gophers eventually settled down and used their size to overpower the smaller Southwest Minnesota State squad to a 75-48 win Wednesday night at Williams Arena.

Minnesota was out-rebounding the Mustangs 31-12 in the first half and shooting almost 20 percent better from the field, but still held only an 11-point lead at the break.

âÄúWe felt really good at the half,âÄù Mustangs head coach Allison Kruger said. âÄúSecond half, you knew [the Gophers] are going to come out strong.âÄù

The Gophers opened up the second half on a 12-0 run and cruised from there.

Forward Katie Loberg dominated the first half, scoring 15 points on seven of nine from the field, while grabbing eight rebounds. She finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes played.

Loberg averaged just two points and three rebounds a game as a freshman last season.

With a consistent front court taking more high-percentage shots Wednesday, the Gophers shot 44 percent from the field, 7 percent better than their poor mark last season.

They finished just 1-for-11 from three-point range and committed 20 turnovers, but made up for it with 52 points in the paint.

âÄúSomething that weâÄôve been emphasizing since the start of the season is really to establish an inside presence,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúBeing able to score some points in the paint will make all of our lives a lot easier.âÄù

Lives will get easier in general, senior guard China Antoine said, as players start to get used to each other as the season goes along.

âÄúI think right now weâÄôre all learning how to play together with each other,âÄù Antoine said. âÄúI think weâÄôre learning from every mistake that we make in the game, and eventually weâÄôll get to where we need to be where weâÄôre on the same page all the time. But weâÄôre definitely getting there.âÄù