Minneapolis -- Junior guard Blake Hoffarber continued his solid play for the Gophers, making a school-record eight three-pointers on his way to a career-high 26 points during Minnesota's 89-48 win against Northern Illinois Tuesday night at Williams Arena.
Hoffarber has led Minnesota in scoring for the past four games, averaging 19.3 points during that stretch, and he was on-the-mark from the outset against the Huskies. He made 9-of-11 field goals in the game, including 8-of-10 from long-range, breaking Minnesota's single-game record of seven treys. That figure had been accomplished three times, most recently by sophomore Devoe Joseph at Penn State on Feb. 14, 2009.
With the game tied at 4-4, Hoffarber sparked the Gophers by making three-pointers on four-straight possessions over a two-minute stretch to push Minnesota's advantage to 16-8. In addition to his shooting proficiency, Hoffarber led Minnesota (8-3) with a game-high six rebounds to go along with four assists in just 22 minutes on the floor. The win was the Gophers' fourth straight, and it marked head coach Tubby Smith's 50th victory at Minnesota.
"I'm proud of Blake Hoffarber and the shooting exhibition he put on tonight," Smith said. "I'm happy for him that he got a school record. I'm glad somebody on the bench told me, and we were able to get him back in the game, and certainly he was ready to go in there. He didn't waste any time, thank goodness."
"Blake's very deserving of it (the school record) because he's a young man who has worked his heart out," Smith said. "He's a guy who's always in the gym. He's a gym rat, he comes in early, stays late, and does all the things that we ask him to do on and off the basketball court."
Following a four-minute lapse in scoring, Minnesota led just 18-10 midway through the first half, but Lawrence Westbrook scored, followed by Hoffarber's fifth trey, a dunk by Ralph Sampson III, and Hoffarber's lone two-point field goal of the night to break things open. That 9-4 run over a two-minute stretch pushed the lead to 27-14 at the 8:00 mark, and the margin kept increasing from that point on.
Minnesota led 44-23 at halftime, as Hoffarber finished with 17 points in the opening 20 minutes. As a team, Minnesota made 17-of-30 (.567) first-half field goals, including an amazing 8-for-10 from beyond the three-point line.
Westbrook made 6-of-9 field goals to finish with 15 points for the Gophers, while the 6-foot-11 Sampson added 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Sampson also pulled down four rebounds and blocked a team-best three shots for Minnesota.
The Huskies (1-6) were paced by nine points each by Xavier Silas and Sean Kowal. NIU was limited to just 19-of-60 (.317) field goals, including an ice-cold 2-for-20 (.100) from three-point range, and turned the ball over 21 times in the loss.
Minnesota fell just one point shy of becoming the first Big Ten team to score 90 or more points in four consecutive games since Iowa accomplished the feat during the 1997-98 season, and all but one player for the Gophers recorded a steal in the game.
Paul Carter came off the bench to finish with eight points and five boards for the Gophers, while Al Nolen dished out six assists and came up with a pair of steals.
The Golden Gophers now have a break for final exams before returning to Williams Arena to play host to South Dakota State on Dec. 23. That game is set for a 6:00 p.m. tipoff, and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.