Gophers surpass win total from last season

Minnesota now has 10 wins through 11 games. The Maroon and Gold went a program-worst 9-22 last year.

When Tubby Smith was hired to take the helm of the Minnesota men’s basketball program last March, many “experts” who follow college basketball believed the 56-year-old would instantly improve the Gophers. Few can question those predictions now.

Eleven games into the 2007-08 campaign, Minnesota has surpassed its win total from last year, after beating Kennesaw State 83-66 Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center to pick up its 10th victory of the season.

Not surprisingly players that were on a Gophers team that went 9-22 with many of the same pieces to the puzzle last season, are encouraged about the team’s 10-1 start heading into an intriguing game against a young, but talented, UNLV team Sunday night in Las Vegas.

“I think coach Smith has come here and made things a lot easier for everyone. But also guys worked a lot harder this summer. Nobody likes to lose that many games, senior forward Dan Coleman, who led the Gophers with 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting, said. “I think it was a combination of great coaching, great staff and guys who don’t want to lose. “

Said senior center Spencer Tollackson: “It’s so different from last year. Winning and losing is contagious. We lost last year and it was contagious. This year, winning is contagious. We have more of a winning mindset this season.”

The Owls (2-10), as they did to host UNLV the night earlier, played the Gophers tight at the beginning of the game and were down just 19-15 midway through the first half. But a 13-0 Minnesota run opened things up a bit for the Maroon and Gold, which went into the half with a 44-23 advantage.

From there, the Gophers were never in danger. Despite coming out sluggish in the second half, Minnesota maintained a double-digit lead for the final 20 minutes.


At one point during Saturday’s game, freshman shooting guard Blake Hoffarber was 3-of-4 from the field, while as a team the Gophers were 4-of-12 (meaning the rest of his teammates were a combined 1-of-8 from the field). – Zach Eisendrath

Note: Minnesota men’s basketball beat writer Zach Eisendrath is in Las Vegas all weekend covering the “Duel in the Desert” tournament, please check the Daily sports blog for constant updates from Nevada.