Minnesota vs. Concordia St. Paul

Brian Johnson

Nolen the leader

Sophomore and veteran point guard Al Nolen stood apart from the rest of his team Friday night when the Gophers faced the Golden Bears of Concordia St. Paul.  Out of anybody, Nolen was easily the most polished and swift on the court, scoring a career high 17 points, 13 of which were in the first half.  When the offense struggled during the first half, Nolen pulled through most of the time.  Tubby even said, "Thank goodness Al was making some shots early on and finding people open and attacking the basket."  "[Al] attacked the basket, played solid defense, which he did with 2 steals and 6 assists," Smith said.

And Nolen is comfortable with his role as the leader.  "I feel like it’s necessary for me to do that, seeing as I got a year under my belt, the other guys, everybody  looks to the point guard to step up and lead and you know I got the ball in my hands most of the time.  So I just felt like I had to make a couple things happen and get a couple guys going in the second half," Nolen said.

Big men have some work to do

Nolen definitely shared the ball too, churning the offense in the second half and dishing out 6 assists for the night.  "In the first half, we weren’t really executing on the defensive end, and we weren’t really running the offense," Nolen said.  On one play in the second half, Nolen took his time as set up a beautiful play with Freshman Colton Iverson, giving the ball to the big man down low for an emphatic dunk.  "If there are matchups on me, I’m going to drop it off to [the freshmen]," Nolen said.

Iverson also held his own Friday night, with 9 points and 5 rebounds.  Iverson, along with fellow big man Ralph Sampson, however, have a ways to go.  Both have the potential to be big forces under the net, but both looked shaky at times, especially Sampson.  "Ralph and Colton are good players, but they’re not there yet," said Smith after the game. 

Ralph finished with almost identical numbers as Iverson, but most of his contributions came within the final minutes of play.  Pulling down offensive rebounds and easy layups gave Ralph some redemption for an otherwise mediocre night. 

Other contributions

Junior Lawrence Westbrook was the other big scorer for the night, brining in 13 points.  Senior Jamal Abu-Shamala played 24 minutes for 8 points and 9 solid rebounds.