Minnesota 63, N. Dakota St. 49
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Lawrence McKenzie had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Spencer Tollackson scored all 12 of his points in the second half to lift Minnesota to a 63-49 victory over North Dakota State on Monday night.
Dan Coleman added 13 points for the Gophers (1-0), who got off to a very sluggish start before pulling away in the second half.
Andre Smith was outstanding for the Bison (1-1) with 17 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
But while the Bison thoroughly outplayed the Gophers football team in a 10-9 loss at the Metrodome in October, NDSU fell flat in this one.
Smith was the only Bison player who looked like he truly belonged on the floor, even against a decidedly mediocre Gophers team with no seniors.
Williams Arena used to be one of the loudest, most difficult places to play in the country. But the Gophers’ struggles under embattled coach Dan Monson over the last eight seasons have severely muted the crowd and alienated the once-fervent fan base.
There were thousands of empty seats for the Gophers’ season-opener, once one of the most anticipated events on campus.
Those who stayed at home didn’t miss much in the first half.
Most of the period looked like it belonged in an intramural gymnasium rather than a Division I arena. In the first 10 minutes, the Gophers shot 17.6 percent while the Bison shot 16.7 percent.
The Bison looked nervous after taking the three-hour bus ride east on Interstate 94 from Fargo. They missed 10 of their first 12 shots and had eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
Still, 7:30 into the game, North Dakota State led 5-4.
McKenzie finally put together a spurt, hitting two 3-pointers and a fast break layup in less than a minute to give the Gophers a 14-5 lead.
Yet with his team seemingly on the cusp of breaking the game open, Monson yanked McKenzie 30 seconds later, and North Dakota State outscored Minnesota 9-2 over the next 2:45.
The Bison trailed by five at halftime, but had no answer for Tollackson’s size and McKenzie’s quickness in the second half.
Minnesota shot 54 percent in the second half, with many of its buckets coming on layups by Tollackson underneath.
North Dakota State shot just 29 percent for the game, with Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman combining to shoot 5-for-21.