MINNEAPOLIS - Tonight's game against Minnesota State was an exhibition, so sixth-year Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith wanted to see minutes from a wide variety of players and rotations. And that's what he got, as his Golden Gophers cruised to an 81-56 win over the NCAA Division II Mavericks on Thursday night at Williams Arena.
Sophomore guard Joe Coleman led all players with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, and 13 Gopher players scored during the blowout victory. Junior guard Austin Hollins added nine points and a game-high nine assists, while senior forward Rodney Williams and sophomore forward Maurice Walker each had eight points for the home team.
Williams opened the scoring with a soft hook shot at the 19:08 mark, and the Gophers jumped out to a 12-4 lead at the first media timeout by making their first six shots and holding Minnesota State to just 1-of-9.
The Gophers' second rotation included Walker, who received a loud ovation from the Williams Arena crowd after appearing in his first game since injuring his right knee on December 23, 2010. Walker rewarded the crowd for its kindness by scoring on a layup on his first attempt to stretch Minnesota's lead to 14-6.
Walker scored six points, had a block and a steal during his first shift of the night, helping Minnesota extend its lead to 25-10 before he was replaced by senior All-American Trevor Mbakwe at the 8:48 mark.
Mbakwe, who was seeing his first game action since tearing the ACL in his right knee last November 27, received a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 8,907, and he also scored on his first attempt to put the Gophers up by 17 points.
Minnesota took a 42-22 lead into the locker room at the half, as it connected on 18-of-25 (.720) field goals in the opening 20 minutes. Coleman led Minnesota with nine points at the break, while Williams and Walker each had six.
The Gophers took advantage of their size by outscoring the Mavericks 28-4 in the paint in the first half, and MSU was held to just 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from the field. For the game, the Gophers made 29-of-38 field goals in the paint and had a final scoring advantage of 58-16 in the lane.
Minnesota opened the second half with a 10-1 run over the first 4:46, which included back-to-back dunks by sophomore guard Andre Hollins and Williams to push its advantage to 52-23 and force a timeout by MSU head coach Matt Margenthaler.
The lead would eventually grow to as many as 34 points twice in the second half, but the Mavericks made 5-of-9 three-pointers in the second half to cut the final margin to 25 points. Sophomore forward Zach Romashko led MSU with 18 points by making 7-of-11 field goals, including 4-of-8 from long-range. Junior forward Connor O'Brien added 13 points and a team-best seven boards in the loss.
Minnesota plays its second exhibition on Monday evening at 7 p.m., as it plays host to Southwest Baptist, before kicking off its 2012-13 regular season against American on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.