MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith coached his first career game against a member of the Northeast Conference on Monday night, when his Golden Gophers played host to Mount St. Mary's.
Smith, who improved his career record to 471-198 in his 20th season, might want to consider scheduling future NEC opponents after the Golden Gophers dominated play from start to finish in an 85-56 win versus the Mountaineers (1-3).
Minnesota (4-0) jumped out to a 9-0 lead just one minute, 30 seconds into the game, as sophomore guard Austin Hollins opened with a four-point play when he was fouled on a three-point attempt, followed by a two-handed dunk on a drive by junior forward Rodney Williams, and another trey by Hollins.
After Mount St. Mary's scored to break the opening run by the Gophers, Williams added another two-handed dunk and a free throw to push the early lead to 12-2. A putback by freshman center Elliott Eliason, who was making his first career start in place of the injured Ralph Sampson III, made it 14-4 in favor of Minnesota.
Williams continued his first-half domination with his third two-handed slam dunk, and added a free throw for a three-point play and a 17-4 advantage, and senior forward Trevor Mbakwe made a pair of free throws to stretch it to 19-4. Freshman guard Joe Coleman added a couple baskets to make it 25-4 midway through the first half.
The Gophers' lead later grew to as many as 33 points, 45-12, and it remained a 33-point lead at the half, 51-18. Williams led all scorers with 12 points on five dunks and a pair of free throws. All 11 players who saw time for Minnesota in the opening 20 minutes of play scored points.
Minnesota started the second half much like it did the first, as freshman guard Andre Hollins knocked down a three-pointer from in front of the Minnesota bench to make it 54-18.
The Mountaineers picked up the scoring, though, making five of their first six field goals after the break, including all three of their attempts from long-range. But Minnesota was able to maintain its large advantage and still held a 33-point lead, 66-33, at the second media timeout of the half.
Mount St. Mary's wound up outscoring the Gophers, 38-34, in the second half, but five Minnesota players wound up in double figures and the Gophers made 30-of-60 (.500) field goals in the 29-point win. One game after committing 23 turnovers in a 67-57 win versus Fairfield, Minnesota turned the ball over just nine times, while forcing 21 Mount St. Mary's miscues.
Austin Hollins paced the Gophers with career-highs of 14 points and six assists, while Andre Hollins had a career-high 13 points and reached double-figures for the second consecutive game. Williams didn't score in the second half, finishing with a season-high 12 points, and Mbakwe and Coleman each added 10 points. Mbakwe just missed a double-double, grabbing a game-high nine rebounds to help the Gophers hold a 36-25 advantage on the glass.
Four players reached double-digits for Mount St. Mary's, led by Danny Thompson, who scored the Mountaineers' first 10 points on his way to tying for a game-high 14 points. Thompson also pulled down a team-best seven rebounds. Kelvin Parker had 13 points, while Julian Norfleet had 11 points and five assists, and Josh Castellanos chipped in with 10 points to offset 10 turnovers.
The Gophers will now play away from Williams Arena for the first time this season, as they travel to Orlando, Fla., for the Old Spice Classic. Minnesota opens play at the tournament by facing the DePaul Blue Demons on Thursday (Nov. 24) at 1:00 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com
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