Led by Al Nolen’s career-high 15 points and five steals, the Golden Gopher men’s basketball team routed a non-conference opponent for the second time in three nights as they defeated North Dakota State
88-56 in front of season-high 12,454 fans Monday evening at Williams Arena.
Six Gophers scored in double figures, and senior Dan Coleman helped lead the way with 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds.Minnesota
combined to score 41 bench points and also set season highs with 14 steals and seven blocked shots. The 88 points was also Minnesota
’s highest tally in nearly two years. Tubby Smith’s Gophers picked up their third 30-plus point victory of the season.Minnesota
shot a season-high 52.9 percent from the field as a team and also connected on a season-best 36 field goals, including nine three-pointers. The victory improves the Gophers’ record to 5-1 while the Bison drop to 4-4.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle that featured multiple lead changes until eight minutes remained in the opening stanza. Excellent defensive pressure from the Gophers led to a 13-0 Minnesota run partway through the half that included all nine of Coleman’s first-half points. Coleman led all players with six first half rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end. The Bison, which entered the game averaging 88 points per game, were held scoreless for over seven minutes at one point in the first half.
Offensive rebounds were the story of the first half for Minnesota the Gophers’ out-rebounded NDSU 11-2 on the offensive side of the ball during the first 20 minutes of play. Minnesota also outscored 22-6 in the paint during the first half.
Coach Smith’s up-tempo style kept the Bison from mounting a second-half comeback, as the Gophers held a commanding 44-27 lead coming out of the locker room. Minnesota quickly snuffed out an early NDSU run to start the second frame by forcing nine Bison turnovers in the period and winning the rebounding battle an impressive 44-33 throughout the contest.
Nolen, a freshman point guard out of Minneapolis Henry High School, played arguably his best game of his young career, making five of seven shots from the field including three of his four three-point attempts. Lawrence Westbrook also continued his early season run of impressive play, making five of seven from the field for 11 points.
The Gophers are now 23-2 all-time against the Bison and have won the last six meetings between the two schools. Minnesota has allowed only one opponent to break the 60-point plateau this season.
Smith’s squad is back in action Saturday night when they take on Colorado State at Williams Arena. That game will tip-off at 7 p.m.