Gophers basketball bounces back, earns third win

Minnesota wins 68-60 against Central Michigan in their final home game of November, improving to a 3-1 record on the season.


Image by Ethan Fine

Guard Ta’lon Cooper directs his teammates down the court during Minnesota’s exhibition game against St. Olaf, Wednesday, Nov. 2.

by Theo Franz

Minnesota men’s basketball added their third win of the season after beating Central Michigan. Thursday’s win marks the end of their opening series at home, and they will not play in Williams Arena again until early December.

The first half started with the Gophers winning the tip-off and after two failed offensive possessions, Jaden Henley cashed in the first point of the game via a free throw.

Starting center Treyton Thompson had a few solid plays three minutes into the game, including a block, a converted “and one” attempt and a three-pointer. He would play for only five more minutes in the first half but managed to lead the team in points with six. His series of scoring put the Gophers up 10 points, but a Central Michigan layup sandwiched between two three-pointers closed the difference to just two.

Central Michigan’s Kevin Miller took notice when Minnesota started to slow down near the midpoint of the first half. Players struggled to defend the speedy guard on both sides of the court as he blew past defenders with ease.

Both teams continued to trade buckets on offense. But with about six minutes left in the half, a recent transfer and Minneapolis native Braeden Carrington subbed in for Henley and hit a three. It was his first made FG as a Gopher, providing enough cushion for them to maintain a safe lead.

“We knew they were going to make a run,” head coach Ben Johnson said. “But [they were] staying focused, staying locked in, no mental errors.” Johnson told his players if they “consumed [themselves] with guarding, everything [would] take care of itself.”

His motives on defense worked. The rest of Central Michigan’s squad could not get into an offensive rhythm. Outside of Miller, players scored 11 points off of 23 shots.

Coming out of halftime, they regained their 10-point lead after a Thompson put-back dunk and a Henley three. This opened up Dawson Garcia’s game and allowed him to recover from his unusually quiet first half. He began to reclaim his role on offense after scoring on back-to-back possessions, putting the Gophers up 41-28.

As the deficit grew, Central Michigan’s offense could not find a solution to Minnesota’s zone defense. They went one for 15 from the field nine minutes into the second half and committed five turnovers throughout the time remaining.

One of their turnovers resulted in a fast break dunk by Joshua Ola-Joseph, assisted by Ta’Lon Cooper, which gave Minnesota all the momentum they needed to put the game away.

Cooper’s ability to facilitate in every in-game situation has been pivotal for the Gophers early on. So far, he has led the team in assists in all four games this season, including eight on Thursday, and looks for the foul whenever he drives. His five made free throws, along with Garcia’s four and Carrington’s three, kept the Gophers’ lead in check as they cruised the rest of the way to victory.

Minnesota’s next game will be against 3-1 California Baptist in the SoCal Challenge, a west coast basketball tournament located in San Juan Capistrano. The road trip lasts through November and ends on Dec. 8, when they host the Michigan Wolverines.