Hoffarber’s record paces Gophers in win

The junior guard made eight 3-pointers to break the record as Minnesota trounced Northern Illinois.

Marco LaNave

ThereâÄôs no other way to put it: the last four games have been the Blake Hoffarber Show. And each performance has been better than the last. On Tuesday night, Hoffarber scored a career-high 26 points and set a school record for 3-pointers made in MinnesotaâÄôs 89-48 victory over Northern Illinois at Williams Arena. Hoffarber made eight 3-point field goals, breaking the previous record of seven shared by three players, including Lawrence McKenzie, HoffarberâÄôs teammate for one year, and current sophomore guard Devoe Joseph, who tied the record at Penn State Feb. 14 last year. âÄúItâÄôs definitely a fun time to get a record like that,âÄù Hoffarber said. âÄúDevoe was joking with meâĦand I passed him up on the last one.âÄù Hoffarber missed his first 3-pointer on the GophersâÄô second possession, but the junior guard made four-straight from beyond the arc on four consecutive Minnesota possessions to turn a 4-4 tie into a 16-8 lead for the Gophers. âÄúMy teammates were finding me, and I just kind of felt like I couldnâÄôt miss there for a little bit,âÄù Hoffarber said. âÄúThe rim definitely felt a little bigger today.âÄù Hoffarber had 12 points in the first 5:44, but Gophers head coach Tubby Smith took him out along with the rest of the starters when Northern Illinois called a timeout with 14:12 remaining in the first half, moments after Hoffarber made his fourth-straight 3-pointer. Neither Hoffarber nor senior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who scored 15 points, said he was surprised that Smith replaced the hot-shooting Hoffarber when he put in the second team. âÄúThatâÄôs the rotation that we have,âÄù Smith said. âÄú[In a different game,] IâÄôd probably do it anyway. He wasnâÄôt going to make them all, but then again, he could; who knows? I probably should have left him in to see if he could.âÄù Hoffarber was on the bench for less than three minutes, and when he had his next shot from 3-point range, he drilled it easily. He didnâÄôt have another open 3-point shot the rest of the half, but Westbrook, junior Al Nolen and Joseph each made one before halftime. The Gophers made eight of 10 3-pointers in the first half to build a 44-23 lead. Hoffarber missed his first shot of the second half, and then rolled his ankle enough to limp off the court and head toward the locker room 1:15 into the second half. He later re-entered the game and made a pair of 3-pointers in a 26-second span to set career highs in points and 3-point field goals with 10:34 remaining. Hoffarber had a record-tying performance in hand, but he was on the bench until the final three minutes. Smith said he didnâÄôt know about the 3-point-field-goal record until an announcement on the public address told the crowd of 12,055 that Hoffarber had tied the single-game Gophers mark. âÄúOne of the coaches just said, âÄòHey, coach, did you hear that?âÄôâÄù Smith said. âÄúI think it was [director of basketball operations] Joe Esposito who said it.âÄù Hoffarber checked back into the game with 2:59 remaining, and when he got his first open look with 1:28 remaining, he knocked down the record-breaker. The fans at Williams Arena had roared with delight after each of HoffarberâÄôs 3-pointers, but they gave their greatest cheer on the final one. âÄúIâÄôm happy for him that he got a record,âÄù said Westbrook, who has scored at least 12 points in the last four games Hoffarber has started. âÄúHeâÄôs a good teammate, and heâÄôs one of my best friends on the team.âÄù In addition to setting the school record for 3-pointers, Hoffarber set career highs in points and field goals made (nine of 11), and he led the Gophers in scoring for the fourth-straight game. He also had a game-high six rebounds and was second on the team with four assists. âÄúHe did everything except sell popcorn and sell sodas at the concessions stands,âÄù Smith said. âÄúIf heâÄôd done that, it probably wouldâÄôve been a big night selling that too, but we needed him in the game.âÄù