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Minnesota basketball: Gophers outrun UTSA 102-76 in Cam Christie debut

Consecutive blowouts punctuated by standout freshman performance

NCAA Basketball: Texas-San Antonio at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

While Dennis Evans was chasing his duffel bag dreams to go play for the worst team in Power 5 basketball, Cam Christie was diligently planning his path to Gopher basketball stardom as he awaited his freshman season. If step one was making a mark in his debut, consider the box checked.

Christie, a four-star commit who reaffirmed his intent to play at Minnesota after Evans flew the coop, finally made his debut a game after having to sit with illness, and he certainly delivered in a 102-76 blowout of the UTSA Roadrunners.

Christie finished with 18 points on 5-8 shooting to go along with three rebounds and four assists, while going 4-6 from deep. Flashing a veteran presence and smooth handles, Christie looked quite at home with the first-teamers, even if he was the first one off the bench, and his smooth shot from deep did not go unnoticed.

But that was just one of many amazing offensive performances for Minnesota. Despite Christie’s exciting debut, he was overshadowed by a breakout performance by Isaiah Ihnen, who finished with a career-high 20 points on a perfect night from the field. Ihnen exploded with five three pointers, going 5-5 from deep and 7-7 from the field, setting the tone for the second Minnesota blowout in as many games. The Gophers scored 100 points for the first time since 2020.

The game was never close as the Gophers raced out to a 21-9 lead and expanded it to a 24-point advantage at halftime, 54-20. Minnesota would not take the foot off the gas as Dawson Garcia poured in a game-high 22 points for his second 20-point game in as many contests and added six boards. Garcia was a perfect 7-7 from the line and has looked comfortable there thus far this season. He was joined in double figures by Joshua Ola-Joseph (12), while Howard transfer Elijah Hawkins nearly notched a triple double, with eight points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, though that all came with six turnovers.

Minnesota overwhelmed their opponent for the second straight game, and registered another blowout over a low-major opponent, something they had yet to do under Coach Ben Johnson. In fact, the 26-point margin was the second biggest of Johnson’s career, only behind a 29-point drubbing of Purdue Fort Wayne in 2021.

Things get a little harder on Thursday, with Missouri coming to town in the first test of the season for Minnesota. That will show a lot more about what this team does and does not have at its disposal and will be a good opportunity to see where the team stands.