Gophers/Dragons Preview: The Gophers will try to go 6-0 under Tubby Smith in exhibition games as they conclude that part of their schedule against the Minnesota State, Moorhead Dragons of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
The Dragons, coached by Stu Engen, lost leading scorer Justin Burgess from a team that finished 10-16 in 2008-09, but do return four starters. Engen has a record of 92-103 in seven seasons at MSU Moorhead and a career record of 296-211 in 19 seasons as a head coach.
Minnesota State, Moorhead opened its exhibition season with an 88-71 loss to North Dakota State University, an NCAA team a season ago. MSU Moorhead had three players in double-figures, led by sophomore guard Jake Driscoll with 17 points. Freshman Eric Olson led the Dragons with nine rebounds and three assists.
The Gophers were led last season by guard Lawrence Westbrook, who scored a career-high 12.6 points per game. Forward Damian Johnson also had a career year, as he registered 9.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Johnson and Westbrook, both seniors, are the captains for Tubby Smith's 2009-10 Gophers.
Last Time Out - Minnesota 114, Minnesota Duluth 47: The Gophers opened the exhibition season against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Nov. 5. Both teams started slowly, as the Gophers held a slim five-point lead at the first media timeout, 8-3. From there, Minnesota went on to score 50 points in the first half, including 21 straight to finish the half, and held the Bulldogs to just five field goals and 13 points.
The Gophers added 10 straight points to open the second half and went on to beat UMD by a score of 114-47. Minnesota was led by senior Lawrence Westbrook with 19 points, while sophomore Devoe Joseph added 18. Senior forward Damian Johnson, who led the team in steals and blocked shots a season ago, finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven steals, four assists, and three blocks.
A trio of freshmen -- guard Justin Cobbs and forwards Dominique Dawson and Rodney Williams -- made their debuts against the Bulldogs. Cobbs delivered four points and five assists in 14 minutes, while Dawson added four points and three rebounds in just six minutes on the court. Williams finished with 11 points on four-of-five shooting from the floor and led all of the freshmen with 22 minutes logged.
All 11 Gophers in uniform made it into the boxscore and played at least six minutes. Last season, Minnesota had 11 players average at least 3.7 points per game and at least 11 minutes per game.
Preseason Rankings: The University of Minnesota men's basketball program will begin the 2009-10 season as the 18th and 25th ranked team in the nation, according to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' preseason and Associated Press polls, respectively.
The Gophers were last listed among the nation's best in a preseason poll prior to the 2002-03 season when they began as the 24th ranked team in the nation. That season, Minnesota spent the first eight weeks in the polls and reached as high as 17th.
Minnesota spent seven-straight weeks in the polls last season, reaching as high as 17th in the ESPN/USA Today poll on Jan. 12. The Gophers entered the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the No. 23 ranked team in the country on Dec. 22, the first time they had been ranked since 2002-03
I know What You Did Last Summer: A pair of Gopher forwards spent their summer away from Minneapolis, playing basketball, of course. Junior Paul Carter, the team's leading returning rebounder, was part of a 13-day, eight-game trip to China as a member of a Sports Reach ministry team. He averaged a team-high 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.
Sophomore Ralph Sampson III was among 17 players invited to participate in a tryout for the USA under-19 men's national team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Unfortunately, Sampson was among the last players cut from the team.
New Barn Floor: Williams Arena, originally built in 1928, has undergone many changes through its 81-year history, and on May 11 construction began on the next phase, a new floor. The project to replace the original floor was concluded on Aug. 28 and came with a price tag of roughly $600,000. Ironically, the original construction expense for Williams Arena was $650,000.
- The original floor was installed in 1928.
- The arena was initially named The University of Minnesota Field House.
- When the building was remodeled in 1950, it was renamed in honor of Dr. Henry L. Williams, the U of M football coach from 1900-21.
- In the remodel, it was built for basketball and hockey (the old Mariucci and current Sports Pavilion) with a capacity of 18,025 for basketball.
- From 1950-71 Williams Arena had the largest capacity of any collegiate basketball arena in the country at 18,025.
- After the 1950 remodel, Williams Arena was granted the 1951 NCAA Finals (Kentucky defeated Kansas, 68-58).
- The arena underwent major renovations during 1991-93 and in 1997.
- After the additional renovations, fire code restrictions dropped the capacity at what it is today, 14,625.
- The University of Minnesota men's program has only had two losing seasons in Williams Arena since 1935-36.
- The Gopher men have an overall record of 710-279 (.718) at Williams Arena, while the Gopher women have an overall record of 212-108 (.663).
- 1,407 Golden Gopher basketball games (men's and women's) were contested on the Williams Arena floor.
- 17 Gopher Men's All-Americans and 13 Gopher women's All-Americans donned jerseys on the Williams Arena floor.
- The most individual points scored in Williams Arena is 45 by Michigan State's Scott Skiles (1/18/86).