Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lights-Out Shooting Paces Gopher Hoopsters

The Gopher basketball team throttled struggling St. Joseph's Saturday afternoon 97-74 at Williams Arena thanks to the outside shooting of Blake Hoffarber and the inside work of Ralph Sampson III.

Hoffarber led the Gophers with a season-high 20 points on 7-14 shooting (5-9 from three-point range). Sampson scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and managed three blocks for Minnesota.

Colton Iverson (11 points, 6 boards), Lawrence Westbrook (14 points), and Devoe Joseph (10 points) each reached double-figures for MInnesota.

The Gophers used a 14-2 run to close out the first half after St. Joe's had tied the score at 24. 

The main reason why the Gophers won so handily was the dominance in the paint. The Gophers outscored St. Joe's 52-20 in the paint, which also accounts for much of the high overall shooting percentage. If the Gophers can establish the a similar presence inside during Big Ten play, they will definitely be a force with which to be reckoned. One has to wonder about the further inside impact suspended players Trevor Mbakwe and Royce White would provide to a team whose inside game is emerging?

Hoffarber has reached double figures in each of the three games he has played since moving into coach Tubby Smith's starting rotation. The streaky-shooting junior from Hopkins is managing to convert his opportunities from beyond the arc. However, as pointed out in today's telecast, Hoffarber's opportunities will be curtailed once Big Ten play begins, something evident in his previous two seasons in maroon and gold.

The Gophers are now 7-3 on the season and have won three in a row after losing three consecutive games. Next up is Northern Illinois on Tuesday night at the Barn. The non-conference portion of the Gophers' schedule has two winnable games remaining, and the Gophers should head into Big Ten play sitting at 9-3 and riding a five-game winning streak.

If only they could have won one of those games over Portland, Texas A&M, and Miami?

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