MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Dan Coleman had 20 points and a career-high six steals as Minnesota beat Santa Clara 68-50 Saturday night for its fifth-straight win.
Lawrence McKenzie added 11 points for the Gophers (8-1), who are off to their best start since the 2000-2001 season, when Minnesota entered the Big Ten season with an 12-1 record. These Gophers have the chance be 11-1 heading into conference play if they can win all three games in next week's Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas.
Many wondered how rusty the Gophers would look after a 10-day layoff, especially against Santa Clara's big frontcourt anchored by 6-foot-10, 305-pound John Bryant. But it was the Broncos who were sloppy with a season-high 26 turnovers -- including 14 in the first half -- and Bryant looked tired early on, lumbering down the court in transition.
The Gophers -- who finished their home non-conference schedule undefeated -- looked far more impressive than in their last outing, a lackluster 6-point win over South Dakota State. Minnesota made only six more shots than the Broncos but had 18 steals.
Coleman, who had four breakaway dunks, scored 20 points for the third-straight games, and Minnesota took control early with a 23-4 spurt spanning most of the first half.
Coleman sparked the Gophers to 15 unanswered points early in the game. Trailing by two to start the game, Coleman had a pair of free throws, a breakaway dunk, a blocked shot, a forced turnover and a short jumper to help give Minnesota a lead it would not relinquish.
Coleman was part of another highlight-reel breakaway later in the half when Jamal Abu-Shamala picked up an errant Broncos pass and heaved it down the court to a streaking McKenzie. McKenzie whipped the ball behind his back to Coleman, who finished with a two-handed jam to make it 26-9 with 5:50 left in the half and bring the crowd to its feet.
Minnesota led 32-21 at halftime.
Santa Clara pulled to within 38-28 early in the second half on a drive by Angley. But Minnesota responded with a 12-2 run and the Broncos didn't seriously challenge again.
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