MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Defending NCAA Division II champion Winona
State left Minnesota with plenty to work on, and worry about.
Jonte Flowers led four starters in double figures with 15
points, and the Warriors held on for a 69-64 victory over the
Gophers in an exhibition game on Wednesday.
Winona State held a 40-27 rebounding advantage, perhaps the
biggest concern for an athletic but undersized Minnesota team that
has no seniors.
"We aren't physical enough right now," Gophers coach Dan
Monson said, pointing to finishing shots around the basket, getting
to the free-throw line and setting screens as well as the obvious
deficiency on the boards.
"In the Big Ten, you need to be able to do that to have
Dan Coleman had 20 points for the Gophers, who got guards
Lawrence McKenzie and Limar Smith back from injuries that kept them
out of last week's lopsided exhibition win over Division II Bemidji
State. Jamal Abu-Shamala, an expected starter, sat this one out
with an unspecified injury.
John Smith had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Warriors, who
celebrated a trip to the big city with an impressive display of
composure, hustle and toughness down the stretch. They clearly left
an impression on their opponent.
"We played our best guys, they played their best guys, and they
beat us," said an especially disappointed Spencer Tollackson, who
had eight points -- all in the second half -- and was highly critical
of his performance.
McKenzie added 13 points for Minnesota, but he shot only
4-for-16 -- including 3-for-10 from 3-point range. Winona State went
8-for-18 behind the arc.
The Warriors, ranked first in most national Division II polls,
were loudly cheered and chanted for throughout the night, from the
first time they took the court during warmups until the end by
enthusiastic fans wearing purple and white T-shirts. The campus is
about a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities.
"This has been a buzz in Winona for I don't know how many
months," coach Mike Leaf said.
Leading 30-27 at halftime, Winona State wouldn't wilt after the
break during an even second half. The Gophers played better inside
over the final 20 minutes behind Coleman and Tollackson, but
Tollackson fouled out with 2:13 remaining -- leaving Minnesota thin
McKenzie rushed a 3-pointer from the wing that banged off the
rim with his team trailing 63-61 and less than one minute to go,
and the Warriors scrapped for nearly every loose ball and rebound
from there -- slowly building their lead during a procession to the
Joe Ingvalson, who had 11 points, tipped Smith's missed foul
shot into the backcourt to allow Winona State retention of the ball
with a three-point lead. Flowers was fouled with 23.6 seconds left
and made one of two free throws to make it 65-61.
"We had nothing to lose. At the same time, these guys have
played together and they do have confidence," Leaf said.
This was the last of three exhibitions for the Warriors, all
against Division I opponents. They beat Drake 88-86 and lost 90-77
to Bradley, a team that advanced to the regional semifinals of the
NCAA tournament last season.
Returning four starters and all of their reserves from the first
national title team in school history, Winona State brought about
half the announced crowd of 10,982 and made it sound a lot like a
road game for Minnesota. For fans of Gophers sports, the atmosphere
and close contest was reminiscent of last month's football game at
the Metrodome against lower-division North Dakota State -- which
thoroughly outplayed Minnesota in a 10-9 defeat.
The basketball version of the Bison, who won at Wisconsin last
season, will be at Williams Arena on Monday for the regular-season
opener. The Gophers will surely have to play better than this to
"I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed. We let our coaches down. We let
ourselves down. We let our families down. Most importantly, we let
the Minnesota fans down," Tollackson said.