Coleman’s 24 points leads Minnesota past South Dakota State 78-72
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Dan Coleman scored 24 points, including the clinching layup with a little more than 1 minute left, to lead Minnesota past scrappy South Dakota State 78-72 on Wednesday night.
Spencer Tollackson added 14 points and Damian Johnson had 10 for the Gophers (7-1), who avoided what would have been an embarrassing loss on their homecourt.
Garrett Callahan scored 28 points and Kai Williams contributed 18 for the Jackrabbits (3-6), who were the losers in Minnesota’s largest margin of victory last season, 77-53.
South Dakota State led often in the first half and never trailed by more than six points. Williams caught an alley-oop pass off an inbounds play for a rim-rattling, two-handed, uncontested dunk that tied the game at 63 with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Gophers tuned up their defense down the stretch, though, and pulled away after Tollackson’s three-point play with 5:25 to go gave them the lead back for good.
The Jackrabbits have had trouble with turnovers, but they handled Minnesota’s full-court press well. South Dakota State, which tries an average of 15 shots per game from 3-point range, overcame a decided disadvantage in size with clutch shooting by Callahan and Williams in an efficient motion offense that sprung several easy layups off back-door cuts.
SDSU was not pushed around in the paint, though, either, owning a 41-26 rebounding advantage.
In just their fourth season as a Division I program, the Jackrabbits— coming off a 29-point loss at Oral Roberts—were an unlikely opponent for the Gophers to have trouble with.
For the first winter since moving up from Division II, South Dakota State— located in the town of Brookings—is playing in a conference.
The cobbled-together Summit League, formerly called the Mid-Continent Conference and dominated by Valparaiso, has 10 schools including the Jackrabbits’ chief rival, North Dakota State. The league stretches west to Southern Utah, south to Centenary in Louisiana, and east to Oakland in Michigan.
Minnesota, though, hasn’t faced the kind of competition that would help a team’s cause for an NCAA tournament selection.
The lone defeat came on the road by a decent Florida State squad, but the Gophers won’t play a ranked team until the Big Ten opener on Jan. 5 at Michigan State. They could conceivably go through their 30-game schedule with a half-dozen or fewer games against foes in the Top 25, since the conference currently has only two teams in the rankings.
Coach Tubby Smith has frequently tinkered with his starting lineups and rotations throughout his first month on the raised floor at Williams Arena, trying to maximize the existing talent before his recruits start to come in and create the best combinations for the Big Ten season.
The Gophers are clearly getting more out of what they have now than in the recent past, and they’ve played some solid, all-around games under Smith. Still, they’ve been prone to inconsistency and haven’t proven yet that they’ll be ready to step it up when conference play begins.