Minnesota point guard Terrance Simmons did his best Michael Jordan impersonation — he even had the right number — to spark a first-half spurt that kept the Gophers undefeated.
Minnesota topped Maine 91-77 Saturday afternoon to move to 6-0.
After a legendary high school career in Louisiana, Simmons’ play drew comparisons to Jordan. And while Minnesota fans heard about his heroics, they hadn’t witnessed much of them.
Down 28-26, Simmons’ three-point play after a nifty 360-spin move sparked a 12-3 run in which he scored all 12 points. He finished with a career-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and five assists.
Simmons wasn’t the only starter contributing. Four of the five starters reached double figures in scoring, and the quintet combined to hit 26-of-41 (64 percent) from the field. As a team, Minnesota is shooting almost 54 percent this season.
Forward Dusty Rychart had 16 points and led the team with six rebounds; center Joel Przybilla dumped in 15 to go with four boards.
At 6-0 and heading to Oregon on Saturday, the Gophers continue to show a fondness for screeching through games with the pedal to the floor. But if you listen to Minnesota coach Dan Monson, it sounds like he’s trying to warn his team that the tread is getting thin.
“As a coach you have to prepare for the rainy day, and the rainy day is when the shots aren’t going in,” Monson said. “Fortunately we had some shots go in today because if you give up 77 (points) you’re going to lose some games.”
Monson said while he was happy with his team’s play on the offensive end, he was disappointed with the defensive effort.
The Black Bears (5-2), led by guard Huggy Dye’s 17 points, clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit and closed the Gophers’ lead to 64-57 thanks to two three-pointers from Maine reserve Cory Thibodeau. But the Gophers defense did just enough to insure the win.
Monson said the only player who played impressively on defense was Simmons. He forced Maine point guard Andy Bedard to commit seven turnovers and held him to 14 points. Simmons said assistant coach Derek Thomas challenged him to shut down the pesky Bedard.
“He came up to me and said, ‘It’s personal. You have to make a statement and show him what kind of defensive player you are.'” Simmons said of Thomas. “I took it upon myself and I told the team, ‘Whenever I’m in, I want Bedard.'”
Bedard played all but one minute for Maine this season entering Saturday. He logged 38 minutes Saturday while the Black Bears used only two players off the bench.
Monson’s squad, meanwhile, was the recipient of some effective bench play. Junior guard Mitch Ohnstad, whom Monson considers a sixth starter, scored seven points. Reserves Nick Sinville and Shane Schilling each helped out with eight points. Sinville also had five assists.
A win against Oregon would give Minnesota its first 7-0 start since 1976-77#. While most of the town continues to call them the “surprising Gophers basketball team”, the players keep telling people to wipe the shocked looks off their faces.
“After losing Quincy (Lewis) and Kevin (Clark) nobody expected us to do anything,” Przybilla said. “We all worked hard this summer to do the things we needed to do to shoot the basketball. Everyone is shocked but us.”
Michael Dougherty covers men’s basketball and football and welcomes comments at [email protected]