The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team wrapped up its exhibition schedule with an 88-52 win over Southwest Minnesota State on Tuesday night at Williams Arena. Minnesota was led by freshman point guard Al Nolen who came off the bench with a perfect shooting game, scoring 24 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Nolen also drained all five of his three-point field goal attempts.
The Gophers blew open a relatively close game in the second half, outscoring the Mustangs 50-19 in the second stanza, holding SMSU to just two second half field goals.
Lawrence Westbrook scored 17 points while Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson each chipped in 16. Tollackson hit 8-of-10 field goal attempts. Minnesota shot 56 percent from the floor and owned a 32-26 rebounding edge. The Gophers also distributed the ball well, accumulating 25 assists.
The Gophers, playing without Lawrence McKenzie, jumped out to an early 13-6 lead after steals by Westbrook on consecutive Mustang possessions led to easy buckets for Minnesota. The Mustangs whittled the Gopher lead to just one with 9:04 left in the half after a 3-point field goal from their 2006-07 leading scorer Travis Krenske. Krenske led the Mustangs with 14 first half points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range.
The Gophers quickly responded and rallied to push the lead to a then game-high 32-20 over the next 4:18. The Gopher run featured 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Nolen. Tollackson scored six of his 16 first half points in the span.
The Mustangs ended the half on a 13-5 run that was aided by two Krenske threes and a bevy of Gopher misses from the outside. Although the Gophers outscored the Mustangs 22-8 in the paint in the first half, Minnesota’s 5-for-21 showing from outside the paint was a testament to their 38-33 halftime advantage against the Division II Mustangs.
The Gophers came out strong in the second half, going on a 19-3 run after Ross DeMasi opened the half with a Mustang basket. The Gophers stretched their lead to 24 on a Coleman layup at 64-40 with just over 10 minutes remaining. The lead swelled to 30 at 74-44 on a trey by Westbrook with 5:46 remaining. Minnesota held the Mustangs without a field goal for over 18 minutes before Kevin Andrews finally drained a short jumper with 1:10 left. The Gophers defense limited SMSU to just 14.3 percent shooting in the second half on 2-of-14.
The Gophers’ regular season will commence when they take on Army on Saturday at 2:00 back at Williams Arena.