First things first, congratulations to the NDSU Bison. They fought for 40 minutes against the Gophers. And for the last two years it has been an absolute joy to watch Ben Woodside play the point guard position for the Bison.
As for Minnesota's 90-76 win Saturday afternoon, I think it must be described as Ralph Sampson III's coming out party. He wasn't as offensively dominant as fellow big Colton Iverson was against Eastern Washington, but Sampson did a bit of everything. Sampson was very active on the boards--he grabbed 6 in 23 minutes. He blocked 3 shots and impacted others (and had a block taken away due to a questionable goaltend call when he came from across the lane and used his length to turn back a shot). He also did the small things, like quickly hitting the outlet man after a rebound to spur a fast break.
Offensively he wasn't shabby either, even if he didn't display a repretoire of moves. He made a Tim Duncan-esque bank shot. He attacked the offensive glass. And he was 5-6 from the floor for 12 points.
Some day soon, as Tubby noted after the game, we'll probably see a Twin Towers alignment with both Sampson and Iverson on the floor together.
“That is why we practice and why those two are here now. We expect big things from them. We want the freshmen to be confident and the other players to be confident in them. We eventually want to have a “twin tower” and we’re almost there. They both really add the quickness in the four and five spots.”
Sampson was the most obvious positive of the game, but there were others. The Gophers shot an impressive 61 percent from the field (and from long distance) for the game. Damian Johnson was an efficient 5-6. Jamal Abu-Shamala led the team with 20 points on a 6-10 afternoon. Blake Hoffarber and Iverson were both 2-3.
What does that tell us? Unlike the Colorado State game where Minnesota was taking low-percentage shots, the Gophers on Saturday were much more inclined to get the ball closer to the basket for high-percentage looks.
All in all, this was Minnesota's best game, in my opinion. Here are some other observations.
- Johnson, as usual, did a bit of everything. He had 6 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals to go with his 11 points.
- One game after looking for his shot often, Iverson was less aggressive on Saturday. I hope to see both him and Sampson be more aggressive offensively as we move forward.
- Rebounding. Minnesota outrebounded NDSU 30-25, but gave up 13 offensive reboudns. In comparison, the Gophers had 7 offensive rebounds.
- Lawrence Westbrook came off of the bench a game after not playing due to a "shin injury." He looked healthy in scoring 17 points in 24 minutes.
- Finally, Spencer Tollackson was the color guy for the BTN. He was OK, in what I guess is his second outing for the network. He did seem a little nervous, and Miss PJS commented that he really ought to shave if he's going to be a television guy. I have to agree. The scruff is probably cool as a college kid, but as a professional broadcaster, not so much. Otherwise, keep up the good work Spencer!
Up Next: Minnesota hosts Virginia on Tuesday as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
What were your thoughts on the NDSU game?