It may have taken them four games, but there was no mistaking the Gophers’ dominance Monday night in an 85-56 rout of Mount St. Mary’s at Williams Arena.
Five Minnesota players scored in double figures as the Gophers improved to 4-0 on the season with all four wins coming at home.
“It was a good evening, better than we’ve had previously as far as execution,” head coach Tubby Smith said. “We were sharp and crisp. Our guys made better decisions with the ball. We got off to a good start.”
Minnesota’s previous three wins had all been by fewer than 20 points and required late-game surges, but this one was never close.
Despite playing without senior center/forward Ralph Sampson III (ankle), the Gophers started the game on an 11-0 run. They extended their lead to 25-4 at the 10-minute mark.
Minnesota kept the pressure on for the entire first half, forcing 12 turnovers while out-rebounding Mount St. Mary’s 24-9.
The Gophers, who led 51-18 at halftime, committed just three turnovers in the first half and nine in the game. The Mountaineers had 21 turnovers.
In last Thursday’s 67-57 win against Fairfield, Minnesota turned the ball over 23 times — three more than its opponent.
“That’s one thing we stress in practice — taking care of the ball in game-like situations,” sophomore guard Austin Hollins said. “We came out and executed tonight.”
Austin Hollins led the Gophers with 14 points, seven of which came in the opening minute and a half. Freshman point guard Andre Hollins had 13 points in 18 minutes.
Andre Hollins split time with Julian Welch and Maverick Ahanmisi, and the three point guards combined for 19 points, eight assists and two turnovers. They also combined to force 10 turnovers from Mount St. Mary’s point guard, Josh Castellanos.
Junior forward Rodney Williams scored all 12 of his points in the first half, 10 of which came on dunks. Both of his rebounds were putback slams that seemed effortless for the highflying 6-foot-7 forward.
“They had smaller guys — this is one of the smaller teams that we’re going to see all season,” Williams said. “Coach was just telling me to be aggressive in the paint because that’s where I had my advantage.”
Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe had 10 points and nine rebounds — his first game this season without a double-double — but didn’t have to carry as large of a load once the Gophers took an early lead.
“He did what he had to tonight,” Austin Hollins said. “Shots were falling for us, so that made his job a lot easier.”
The pace slowed in the second half as Minnesota put the game on cruise control. That enabled the Mountaineers to execute their half-court offense and outscore Minnesota 38-34 in the last 20 minutes.
Still, Smith said he was pleased with the team’s last performance before heading to Orlando, Fla., for the Old Spice Classic on Nov. 24-27.
“I thought top to bottom, getting everybody in the game was key, especially going into this Old Spice Classic,” Smith said. “We needed a big game to have some confidence and feel good about ourselves.”
Minnesota is scheduled to play three games in the Old Spice Classic, beginning with DePaul at 1 p.m. Thursday.