Gophers improve after halftime talk, win 82-53

Michael Dougherty

Lack of a pregame nap coupled with some sloppy first-half play made new Gophers basketball coach Dan Monson an unhappy man during halftime of Minnesota’s 82-58 exhibition win Wednesday against the Cimeba All-Stars at Williams Arena.
After racing out to a 15-2 lead in the game’s first five minutes, Minnesota limped through the rest of the half as the All-Stars outscored the Gophers 27-15. Monson took his squad to the locker room at the Barn for the first time and chewed some tail.
Gophers freshman guard Shane Schilling, who had three fouls in only one minute of play in the first half, said he’d never been prodded like that intensely.
“My dad’s never even chewed me out like that,” Schilling said.
Apparently some of what Monson said registered, because the team came out with some renewed intensity and put the game away.
Led by 10 second-half points from guard Mitch Ohnstad, Minnesota went on a 23-4 run in the first seven minutes after intermission to take a 53-33 lead. Ohnstad finished with a game-high 19 points. The team shot only 31 percent from the floor in the first half but shot a blistering 58 percent in the final 20 minutes.
Ohnstad, whose regular season career high is 16 points, also gave credit to Monson’s locker-room lambasting for the team’s improved play.
The junior from Faribault said he has taken it upon himself to add some scoring punch to a team that lost 54 percent of its scoring when Quincy Lewis and Kevin Clark left.
“I think this team is going to look for me to score some more,” Ohnstad said. “I’m not going to look outside the team concept, though. I think I’m ready to be more of a leader.”
Not so impressive was center Joel Przybilla, who was hampered by foul trouble and scored only five points in 19 minutes. However, he did have six assists and four rebounds.
Overall Monson said he was pleased with the team’s effort. But he spoke of an uneasiness coaching at the Barn for the first time.
“I felt awkward during the day,” he said. “You’re in a strange building with different pregame rituals and surroundings, but once the game started I felt very comfortable.”
When asked which rituals were different, Monson revealed that he used to go home before games when he was at Gonzaga and take a nap. He can’t do that now because he has a longer commute to his home.
Monson said the pep talk at halftime was designed to leave everyone with a better idea of what to expect.
“In the first half when things went bad, we became soft,” Monson said. “We let them dictate the game. At halftime I was not pleased with our first impression — and these people (the 10,408 fans) were not going to leave thinking we are soft.”

Michael Dougherty covers basketball and football and welcomes comments at [email protected]