Exhibition season ends with Minnesota victory

Sarah Mitchell

The exhibition season has come and gone for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.
While the Gophers picked up two wins in exhibition play — a 96-56 defeat of Team Concept on Tuesday followed by a 91-55 win over the Yugoslavian Select team on Saturday, Gophers coach Dan Monson is still trying to figure out the state of his injury-plagued team.
“I think from a coaching standpoint, it’s scary because we don’t really know where we’re at and the exhibition season is over,” Monson said. “We’ve got to hope that in the next week we can make progress with a lot of unknowns.”
Monson did get to run a smaller line-up against the Yugoslavians.
With Gophers big man Ryan Wildenborg in early foul trouble, junior forward Dusty Rychart returned from a back sprain to pick up his first minutes of the season.
The downsized front line of 6-foot-8 center Mike Bauer, Rychart at power forward and John-Blair Bickerstaff at small forward went on a 15-0 run.
“Bauer and Dusty together, if we can guard people, is a very good offense for us,” Monson said. “We will see that at least half the time this year if everybody is healthy.”
The freshman Bauer led all scorers with 27 points while Rychart added 15 and Bickerstaff chipped in 14. Gophers guard Shane Schilling scored 18 points.
“Our scoring is going to have to come by committee a lot, but I think there are some guys who have to come every night,” Monson said. “I think Schilling, Bauer and Dusty are probably the best that you have that are consistent scorers.”
While the Gophers successfully ran their smaller line-up against the Yugoslavian team, tougher tests are looming against Big Ten teams.
“With bigger teams in the Big Ten, big size in the middle, it’s going to cause us some trouble,” Rychart said. “We’ll cause them some trouble, too. If I play center and I’m outweighed by 30 or 40 pounds, it’s going to be tough for me to play the five spot, but we can out run them. That’s why we go to the smaller line-up.”
The arrival of Duluth East forward Rick Rickert to Williams Arena received the loudest reaction from the 7,215 fans at Williams Arena on Saturday.
Rickert, considered the best high school basketball player in the state, verbally committed to Arizona on Oct. 25, but did not sign the letter of intent scheduled for last Tuesday.
Rickert is still considering committing to the Gophers and said he will make his final decision on today.
“I’m still up in the air right now,” Rickert said.
“Monday I will sign. I’m really torn to where I am going to be going right now. I don’t know. It’s really tough.”
Rickert said a conversation with his best friend Louis Wiggen on Tuesday factored into the delayed decision.
“We went into the offices and talked and he said, ‘You know, I don’t know if I will get accepted to Arizona or not.’ He said, ‘I’m probably going to Minnesota then,'” Rickert said. “Our whole plan was him going to school with me. I wanted to go to school with him real bad because he’s like a real good inspiration for me. I love the kid so much.”
While Rychart returned to action on Saturday, three other Gophers did not play due to injury.
Starting point guard Terrance Simmons and junior college transfers Travarus Bennett and Kerwin Fleming did not play.
Monson said Simmons and Fleming could have played if needed. But since Minnesota easily handled the Yugoslavians, Monson said the risk of putting Simmons or Bennett on the floor was not worth taking.
“What we can’t do is have it snowball,” Monson said. “We can’t put guys back into early if they’re not ready just because we need them.”