Minnesota defeated Western Michigan 61-60 to win their season opener at Williams Arena. Dawson Garcia led all scorers with 23 points.
Look, it’s a non-conference game against an opponent that is substantially below Big Ten quality. There are only two goals in these types of games: win and have no one get injured. Minnesota accomplished both goals and can move on in the season. The first half was a somewhat tepid affair as the Gophers looked to find their feet, though Minnesota ended the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 35-26 lead into the locker room. In the second half, the Gophers kept the game much closer than it should have been with several periods of stagnant offense that not coincidentally occurred when Dawson Garcia was not on the floor. Still, while the close score may indicate otherwise, there was no time for which Minnesota was truly in trouble.
Ben Johnson will still not be pleased about the end of the game.
Since this is the first game of the season and Western Michigan is not a good basketball team, I will treat this recap as a series of running observations.
- Dawson Garcia is a very talented basketball player, who is going to be an absolute monster when Jamison Battle returns such that Garcia is no longer an automatic double. Garcia had 12 points in the first half on 4-9 shooting. For the game, Garcia finished with 23 points and seven rebounds. He also finished almost 40% of the possessions when he was in the game, so ball dominant might be an understatement.
- Ta’lon Cooper is going to play a lot of minutes this season. He played all 20 in the first half, and came out with 8 assists to just 1 turnover along with 7 points. I will take 8/1 Ast/TO ratios all season. For the game, he put up 17 points and came just short of a triple double. I expect that Cooper will have at least one triple double in the non-conference.
- Pharrell Payne is already bigger and badder than everyone he plays against. Now he just has to learn how to not silly foul early Daniel Oturu style.
- Rebounding the basketball is a fun adventure on each defensive possession, which is not awesome. First half of the first game, but something to watch for as the season progresses.
- Will Ramberg made the most of his (likely) rare place in the starting lineup. He put up some points, was an adequate rebounder, picked up a charge, exactly what you want an effort guy to bring to a basketball team.
- This team’s free throw shooting performance was atrocious for much of the game. Less than 50% from the stripe is no way to go through life.
- Joshua Ola-Joseph is the player we all wanted Jarvis Omersa to be, and he has a lot of room to grow.
- Jamison Battle will make this team very hard to guard as the season progresses.
- Officials are calling moving screens early on this season. Much like this is is the year of Linux on the Desktop, will this be the year of calling moving screens in conference play? (No. No it won’t).