Holman scores 22, exorcises Big Ten Tourney demons

Brian Hall

Following Minnesota’s loss to Illinois in the second round of last week’s Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, senior Travarus Bennett and junior-transfer Jerry Holman sat and discussed the game.

Bennett chastised Holman for his performance against the Illini. Holman fouled out after playing only 14 minutes while totaling only two points and one rebound.

Holman felt personally responsible for the 16-point loss and vowed to Bennett he would make up for it.

“We got into it a little bit,” Holman said. “He said I’ve got to pick it up and just do what I can. I told him I wasn’t going to let him down.

“I wanted to prove to the team and to him that I could play with them.”

Holman proved his point in a big way on Wednesday night as his career-high 22 points in only 19 minutes helped the Gophers crush New Mexico 96-62 in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.

“He showed me tonight he can do what he wants to do,” Bennett said. “He is awesome on the block and he scored at will tonight.”

Each coach made changes to their respective starting lineups. Lobo coach Fran Fraschilla’s substitutions were done for injury reasons, while Minnesota coach Dan Monson altered his lineup to better matchup with New Mexico’s three-guard lineup.

Holman began the game on the bench as guard Kevin Burleson received the starting nod.

In the end though, Minnesota triumphed on the ability to pound the ball inside to its strength, not by adapting to the Lobos style of game.

“It really hurt us,” Fraschilla said. “We heard they were big but weren’t physical. I guess things are relative because they may not be considered physical by Big Ten standards, but they sure were physical tonight.”

The Gophers used their inside advantage with help of their pair of 6-foot-10 post players, Rick Rickert and Holman.

Even the 6-foot-7 Bennett was able to dominate inside with a game-high six offensive boards, 15 total.

“We had them pegged and knew what was coming,” Fraschilla said. “But, they were able to take advantage and produce.”

But when Minnesota needed a boost, Holman stepped up like never before this season.

The seen was repeated many times with different players acting as the set-up man. But, each instance it was Holman finishing with a thunderous dunk or a soft turnaround jumper.

“They didn’t have an answer for his length and athleticism in there,” Monson said. “Travarus is our leader, but Jerry gave us as much a presence as anyone.”

Minnesota opened its lead in the first half and kept the pressure on by going inside to Holman and Rickert, never resorting to a steady diet of jump-shots.

“It’s a lot easier to go inside when you continue to score,” Monson said. “It’s an easy decision because you can see good things happening.”

Added Holman: “Things were going right and we had the energy. Things were just falling for me, Rick, and Travarus.”

And as they walked off the Williams Arena court victorious, Rickert was carried away on Holman’s back, much in the same manner the Gophers rode Holman to a win.

Brian Hall covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]