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.Brody Angley had 15 points and Bryant and Calvin Johnson each had 10 for Santa Clara (7-5), which has lost its last two games by a combined 44 points.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.