Gophers roll in final brush-up before regular season

Minnesota jumped to a 25-2 lead midway through the first half and won by 49.

John Hageman

The Minnesota menâÄôs basketball team is headed into the regular season with confidence after another easy exhibition win Monday over the University of Minnesota-Moorhead, 98-49 at Williams Arena. The Gophers got off to a quick start and led MSUM 25-2 midway through the first period, and led 42-20 at the break. But the final score was the biggest margin the Gophers led by all game. Minnesota dominated on defense with 13 blocks and scored 34 points off 24 turnovers. The team also scored 28 fast-break points. Though Gophers forced a significant amount of turnovers, they a lso gave up 17 of their own, which Minnesota head coach attributed to his players getting careless. Minnesota got hot from behind the arc in the second half, going 10-for-14 in the period and 14-for-23 in the game. Minnesota owned the boards Monday, tallying 45 rebounds to the DragonsâÄô 27. Six players scored at least six points Monday, which coach Smith said comes from spreading the ball around. âÄúGood shots start with good passes, and thatâÄôs why weâÄôre shooting the ball well,âÄù Smith said. âÄúThatâÄôs what weâÄôre going to have to do in order to be a consistent contender in every game.âÄù Sophomore Devoe Joseph led the Gophers with 20 points, went 5-of-8 from behind the arc, and hit four straight 3-pointers within the last 3 minutes of play. Joseph said he had been working on his shot this offseason, which showed in MondayâÄôs game. âÄúI feel like you always want to work on everything,âÄù Joseph said. âÄúEven the guys in the pros âÄî the good shooters âÄî still work on their jump shot.âÄù Senior Lawrence Westbrook was 4-for-7 from behind the arc and finished with 16 points in 22 minutes of play. Coming off the bench, junior Blake Hoffarber scored 14 points and was 4-for-5 in 3-point attempts. Sophomore center Ralph Sampson III was one of three Gophers with a team-high six rebounds, and had 11 points. Senior Damian Johnson also had six boards to go with 10 points. Junior Al Nolen had a team-high seven assists and three steals which set up transition layups down the court. Freshman Rodney Williams played for 12 minutes and scored six points with two blocks. Fellow freshman Justin Cobbs had three points and five assists in his 13 minutes of play and shared back-to-back blocks with Williams midway through the first period. Freshman Dominique Dawson played only four minutes and had two blocks, but committed two turnovers. Because of off-court issues, Royce White, Devron Bostick, and Trevor Mbakwe did not play Monday and Smith said they will not play Friday either. With Joseph likely to play both point guard and shooting guard this season, he said that the depth in the back court will provide an advantage for the team this year. âÄúWe have a bunch of guys that can handle the ball,âÄù Joseph said. âÄúItâÄôs good because itâÄôs hard for teams to press you.âÄù With the two exhibition victories in which the Gophers outscored their opponents 212-96, Smith said he is satisfied with where his team is right now. âÄúI think weâÄôve gained a lot of confidence,âÄù Smith said. âÄú The Gophers will open their regular season Friday against Tennessee Tech at Williams Arena. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.