It was the first of two exhibitions for the Minnesota men's basketball team, and these games don't always go very smoothly, with a plethora of lineup combinations being utilized and it being the first time the players face outside competition. So Tuesday night's 71-58 preseason win versus Bemidji State before a crowd of 10,653 at Williams Arena was truly a learning experience for head coach Tubby Smith'syouthful Gophers.
All 11 Minnesota players who played in the game scored, including five who were making their debuts in Maroon and Gold. The Gophers never trailed and made 29-of-59 (.492) field goal attempts in the game, but a feisty BSU squad made 10-of-25 (.400) three-point field goals to hang with the Gophers.
Seniors Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakweused their experience and size to pace Minnesota. Sampson used a smooth stroke to hit a six-foot hook shot in the lane on the Gophers' opening possession of each half, and the Golden Gophers jumped to an early 8-0 lead.
Sampson and Mbakwe combined to make 8-of-9 first half field goals, as the Gophers led by as many as 11 points in the opening stanza and went to the half with a 30-21 advantage. Mbakwe showed why he's on the John Wooden Award watch list and a preseason third-team All-America selection. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound force made all five first-half field goal attempts for 10 points to go along with seven rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
Mbakwe finished with a team-high 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting and pulled down a game-best total of 11 rebounds, while Sampson added 15 points and four boards. Minnesota used its height advantage to tally a 45-23 edge on the glass. Junior Rodney Williamswas the third Minnesota player in double-figures, making 2-of-3 field goals and all six free throws he attempted to score 10 points.
Freshman guard Andre Hollins made an impressive first appearance for the Gophers, dishing out eight assists without a turnover and adding six points. Sophomore Austin Hollins (no relation to Andre) and freshman Joe Colemaneach chipped in with seven points.
Bemidji State, a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, was led by sophomore David Berthene. The 6-foot-9 forward kept the Beavers close by making 8-of-15 field goals, including 5-of-11 three-pointers, for a game-high 21 points. Senior James Ellisor and sophomore Jake Schalow also reached double-digits with 12 points apiece.
Minnesota plays its final exhibition before the start of the regular season when it plays host to fellow NSIC member Augustana College on Monday, Nov. 7. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m., and the game can be viewed online via Gopher All-Access.
- By Michael Molde, Athletic Communications Assistant