Banged-up basketball team rolls in exhibition

The scorecard from the Tuesday night Gophers men’s basketball team’s season-opening exhibition game against Team Concept looked much like a presidential ballot.
There were the Gore/Bush-like fan favorites, like Minnesota captains John-Blair Bickerstaff and Terrance Simmons, who will be the leaders this year.
Then there were the Nader-like dark horses, like Michael Bauer and Shane Schilling, who will be a factor in the coming seasons.
And then there were a bunch of also-rans, like walk-on Justin Lorang, who no one has ever heard of.
Either way you cast you ballot, this game was no dead heat.
After all the precincts were in, there was a final: Gophers 96, Team Concept 56.
“They aren’t a Big Ten caliber team,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “But then again, we aren’t a Big Ten caliber team right now either.”
Minnesota continued its string of 12 straight exhibition wins, dating back 10 years, by defeating a team with sponsor names on their jerseys and no apparent coach on the bench.
Nonetheless, it was a real basketball game — something the Gophers have been waiting for since practice opened last month.
“We’ve been beating each other up for three weeks,” Schilling said. “We’re sick of each other. We’d rather go beat up someone else.”
With a weak opponent, a real presidential race unfolding on television sets all across the country and dismal weather, a crowd of just 6,117 made there way to Williams Arena to see the Gophers roll.
After jumping out to a 51-29 halftime lead, Minnesota cruised to the 40-point win.
Much of the Gophers scoring came from Schilling. The sophomore had 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting before limping off the court with a sprained ankle with 11 minutes left in the second half.
Taped up, the guard returned three minutes later to add another five points, finishing his night with a team-high 27 points.
“I’m less hesitant this year,” Schilling said. “I know when to take shots now.”
In total, Minnesota’s starting five of Schilling, Bickerstaff, Simmons, Bauer and center Ryan Wildenborg all scored in double figures. Bauer contributed with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Back to the injuries. The Gophers were without the services of forward Dusty Rychart, who was dressed, but didn’t play because of a strained back.
Both Monson and Rychart said the junior could have played in an emergency situation.
“We suited him up in case we got into first-half foul troule,” Monson said.
Also MIA were junior college transfers Travarus Bennett and Kerwin Fleming, who are also banged up.
Besides injuries, the only other thing that went wrong for the Gophers was their interior defense.
With only one player on the roster taller than 6-foot-8, Minnesota couldn’t defend Team Concept’s 6-foot-11 center Todd Lauktenbach, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds.
“I would venture to say that we’ll see other team’s centers wrack up some numbers this year,” Monson said.
The Gophers next face the Yugoslavian National Team on Saturday in the final preseason game.
Oh, by the way, Lorang — a walk -on from Worthington, Minn — finished with four points, slightly more than Pat Buchanan.

John R. Carter covers football and men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected] can also be reached by calling (612) 627-4070 x3244.