Gophers beat Wofford in season opener

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gophers opened their regular season at home against a very difficult and experienced team from Wofford. Minnesota came out strong and didn't let up until the final whistle, notching their first win by a score of 69-55.

In the first half, the Gophers came out of the gate with an obvious game plan: get the ball to the big men. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III started the game in the front court and handled the ball at least once on most of the possessions to start the game. The two started out slow but turned it on to have two solid performances.

Iverson did not shoot well from the field, four for 11 for eight points, but ended up snagging nine rebounds. Sampson was nothing short of dominant in this game. He hit seven of 14 shots from the field including one of three from deep. He ended up with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. Many of his baskets came on open midrange jumpers, showcasing his deeper range this season.

After the game Sampson said of his new range on his jump shot, "It kind of started last year, trying to step out to open up the inside for my counterpart big man (Colton Iverson)." If Sampson can continue his shooting from the outside it should free up plenty of space for the Gophers' other bigs.

Two new Gophers who put on great performances were junior transfer Trevor Mbakwe and freshman guard Chip Armelin. Mbakwe put on a show for the crowd the second he stepped on the court, throwing down a huge dunk in front of the student section. He said of the dunk, "I felt like a new person out there. It was great. My first play; my first points as a Gopher were a dunk. It was just crazy."

Mbakwe was active on the boards and showed strong moves in the post. He ended up with 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Mbakwe showed why Gopher fans have been patiently waiting for his arrival this past year.

With the loss of Devoe Joseph due to suspension, backup shooting guard duties fell to 6-foot-3 freshman Chip Armelin. Armelin played only 12 minutes at the two-guard but shot four out of five from the field for 11 points.

His 11 points was third best on the team behind Sampson and Mbakwe. Armelin had strong moves, getting open looks on his own off the dribble, as well as penetrating to the hole for a nice finish. Although the loss of Joseph seems disastrous, Armelin could help alleviate the pain fans might be feeling.

The Gophers' defense looked solid against the Terriers' offense. Minnesota held Wofford to 55 points on 36.7% shooting from the field and only three for 16 from behind the arc. Minnesota played great perimeter defense, rarely allowing Wofford to have an open look for three. Once in awhile there were lapses in the defense in the post but for the most part the Gophers' big men were just too much for the Wofford front court to overcome.

Two Minnesota natives played well on Friday for the Terriers. Braham native Noah Dahlman looked good in the post, shooting six for 12 and totaling a team high 15 points. Although undersized compared to the Gophers' big men, Dahlman found ways to score around the hoop. De La Salle graduate Cameron Rundles started the game at guard and ended the game with 14 points, second highest for Wofford.

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