The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team officially opens the 2007-08 schedule Saturday afternoon with a matchup against Army at Williams Arena. The Black Knights return 16 players from last season, including leading scorer and All-Patriot League pick Jarell Brown. Army finished 15-16 last season, including a 4-10 record in league play. The Gophers are 1-0 all-time against Army thanks to a 79-37 victory on Dec. 28, 1981. The game is sceduled to tip at 2 p.m. and can be seen on www.BigTenNetwork.com.
The Gophers finished the exhibition portion of its schedule with a pair of victories, 94-68 over Minnesota State and 88-52 over Southwest Minnesota State.
In game one, Minnesota was led by senior tri-captain Lawrence McKenzie, who made 9-of-13 shots en route to a game-high 24 points. He also contributed four rebounds and four assists. Fellow senior and tri-captain Dan Coleman chipped in with 17 points while Spencer Tollackson, the final senior tri-captain, scored 11 points and dished out a team high five assists. Junior Jonathan Williams grabbed a game-high 13 boards off the bench for the Gophers.
Game two saw Gopher freshman Al Nolen put together a perfect night, as he finished with a game-high 24 points (6-for-6 from the field, 7-for-7 from the line) to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Lawrence Westbrook scored 17 points while Coleman and Tollackson contributed 16 points each. Sophomore Kevin Payton led the Gophers with six assists.
Nolen shot 9-of-11 in the two games and made all six of his three-point attempts. Coleman also averaged 16.5 ppg in exhibition play while Westbrook and Tollackson averaged 13.5 ppg.
Each New Season
The University of Minnesota men’s basketball program has an all-time record of 84-22 in season opening contests, dating back to a victory over Company A in 1896 by a score of 5-4. The Gophers current win streak in season openers stands at nine (1992-93, 1999-2006). Last season, Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first game as a Golden Gopher to lead Minnesota past North Dakota State 63-49 at Williams Arena.
Tubby out of the Gate
Tubby Smith comes into the 2007-08 season with 387 career wins as a head coach, 13 of which have come via season opening victories. While at the University of Tulsa Smith guided the Golden Hurricane to a 3-1 record in openers followed by a 2-0 record in his stint at the University of Georgia and a 8-2 record in his 10 seasons at the University of Kentucky. Coach Smith’s teams have won the last five season openers.
Gophers agaInst the Patriot League
Minnesota is 5-1 all-time against teams from the Patriot League, having played three of the four schools only once. The Gophers only loss came against Navy in 1924 by a score of 18-24. Minnesota hasn’t played a member of the Patriot League since the 2004 season, a 72-56 victory over Holy Cross. Tubby Smith has only faced one Patriot League team as a head coach, as his Kentucky led team defeated Holy Cross 72-68 in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament.