Tubby Smith picked up his 100th career win as a head coach at Minnesota as Golden Gophers beat LaSalle 70-61 on Wednesday. Track all the tournament games on our BTN.com scoreboard and get a final recap in this post. Also, don’t forget to bookmark the NIT bracket.
TOM DIENHART’S TAKE
Key player: Forward Rodney Williams fueled the Golden Gophers’ NIT-opening victory at LaSalle by scoring a team-high 21 points. The junior hit 9-of-17 shots and played 37 of 40 minutes while also pacing the squad with six rebounds. It was one of Williams’ best games of the season, as Minnesota played a third game in a row without Ralph Sampson III (bad back). The Gophers are hot, winning three of their last four. And the lone loss came in overtime vs. Michigan in the Big Ten tourney. Before this run, Minnesota had lost six in a row and seven of eight.
Key number: 30, rebounds for Minnesota, which was 10 more than LaSalle. That dominance on the glass allowed the Gophers to overcome 1-of-11 shooting from 3-point range vs. a LaSalle club that got just three points off the bench and committed 18 turnovers.
What’s next for Minnesota: The Gophers (20-14) will take on No. 2 Miami, Fla. (20-12), which beat Valparaiso, 66-50, in the first round on Wednesday night. Every game for Minnesota will be a boon for next season, as Tubby Smith’s squad isn’t playing one senior at this point with Ralph Sampson III out. Players like Rodney Williams, Dre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Elliott Eliason, Joe Coleman and Julian Welch, among others, all will be back in 2012-13. So this experience is invaluable, with a game vs. an ACC foe next. Minnesota will play a good Hurricane team that almost made the NCAA tourney.
Get our half-by-half recap, powered by Narrative Science:
Final: Tubby Smith picked up his 100th career win as a head coach at Minnesota as Golden Gophers beat La Salle 70-61 on Wednesday. Rodney Williams helped spark Minnesota, with 21 points and 9-of-17 shooting from the field. Andre Hollins shot 6-of-9 from the field and scored 15 points for Minnesota (20-14). The Golden Gophers hit 53 percent of their field goals (28-of-53). Minnesota also got a double-digit game from Austin Hollins, who scored 14. Earl Pettis contributed 19 points for La Salle (21-13) in the game. Sam Mills was 3-of-5 from the floor and chipped in eight points for the Explorers. La Salle shot 47 percent from the field (24-of-51). The Explorers also got double-digit contributions from Jerrell Wright, who scored 12 and Ramon Galloway, who scored 13.
Halftime: Rodney Williams scored 17 points for Minnesota in the first half to carry the Golden Gophers to a 40-37 lead over La Salle. The Explorers were leading 37-32 before they allowed Minnesota to make a late 8-0 run and take a lead into the half. The Golden Gophers have been effective inside, making 17-of-25 two-point field goals, but Minnesota has struggled on the perimeter, shooting 0-for-5 from three-point range. Ramon Galloway is putting together a nice game so far for La Salle. The junior has 11 points.