For the first time Ben Johnson took his spot on the Williams Arena home bench as the head coach. The game was just an exhibition game, but we finally got a chance to see his remade Gopher squad in live action.
Those who were actually able to view the exhibition game were few as the game was only on BTN+. So this will be a recap that is part box score browsing with some color added from a couple of our staff who did actually watch this game live.
So what did we learn?
We have learned who the starters will be and who will get the most minutes off the bench.
- PG - Payton Willis - this was assumed and Willis played 34 minutes, finishing as the team’s 2nd leading scorer with 23 points along with 5 assists and 0 turnovers.
- SG - EJ Stephens - also played 34 minutes, was the 3rd leading scorer at 10 points.
- SF - Luke Loewe - was a presumed starter (at least by me) and
- PF - Jamison Battle - probably the transfer to get most excited about and Battle delivered. Looks like he will be the team’s primary scorer on the floor.
- C - Eric Curry - 7 boards (4 Off) and 7 points while playing the fewest minutes of the starters
- Bench - Sean Sutherlin - led the team in minutes off the bench with 18. Finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds
- Bench - Charlie Daniels - 13 minutes off the bench and the reports were not kind regarding his play (see below)
- Bench - Abdoulaye Thiam - 8 minutes and 0/5 shooting from three.
- Bench - Treyton Thompson - also 8 minutes
- Bench - Danny Ogele - 3 minutes, does not appear to be in the actual rotation
The starters for this team were a combined 11/24 shooting from three. It was Thiam’s 0/5 from behind the arc that brought down the overall percentage. Reports are that this team looks confident and competent in shooing threes. Good shooting nights may very well keep them in some games.
Bad news and good news here. The bad news is that we are very thin in the paint and we are likely to get destroyed on the boards when we face Big Ten teams.
Thoughts from ZipsofAkron (who watched the game)
Ignoring that they had borderline trouble with a bad D-II team, I do think that the core of college basketball veterans will help them in any games that they find themselves close in. Loewe, Sutherlin and Battle didn’t look at all panicked in what would have been a pretty embarrassing start for this year’s team.
The frontcourt is in worse shape than I thought, though, and I’d expected very bad things. Charlie Daniels is currently unplayable and you can’t realistically expect Treyton Thompson to contribute right away. Unfortunately, both of them will have to play. Where does that leave them? Coach Johnson said they are deploying a four-out strategy, so he knows this, but it’s going to get pretty gory on the defensive side of the ball.
The good? This is actually a good shooting team. Like, you can tell that Battle, Stephens, Willis and Loewe want to shoot the ball. That’s a much different mindset than Gabe Kalscheur last year, who felt like he had to shoot the ball. What I mean here is that I think the lack of expectation actually helps them. They are going to lose, and lose a lot, but any success is going to have to come from the field and I think they have the firepower to keep some games close if the deep ball is working.
Also, Jamison Battle looks like he could be a very very good college player. His shot is so smooth, he is controlled and confident.
The Gophers have 1 week to prepare for Kansas City in the regular season opener. They faced the Roos last year and won 90-61, but as you may know, this is a distinctly different team.