Minnesota Gophers Face Northern State

The Minnesota Gophers conclude their exhibition opener against a second Northern Sun opponent when they face Northern State University Thursday. They defeated St. Cloud State 88-80 Monday. Northern State finished 29-4 overall, 17-1 at home, where they led Division II in attendance.

The Wolves, who will face Minnesota Thursday at 7 p.m., advanced to the NCAA Regional championship game before falling to eventual national champions Winona State, a team that they lost to four times last year. The Wolves fell to the Warriors twice in the regular season and in the Northern Sun Conference Tournament game.

Northern State head coach Don Meyer, who is just 12 victories from overtaking Bob Knight as college basketball's winningest men's coach, was recently released from Sioux Falls, nearly eight weeks after an auto accident that crushed his left side and resulted in his left leg being amputated below the knee. He eventually will be fitted for a prosthetic leg.

All of the ribs on his left side were broken, and he had multiple compound fractures of both bones in his lower left leg. Doctors removed his spleen and a portion of his intestines.

Meyer has been a head coach for 36 seasons, the past nine at Northern State. Before that, he was at then-NAIA Lipscomb, located in Nashville, Tenn., for 24 seasons. He trails Knight on the wins list 902-891. Assistant coach Randy Baruth has been running the program in Meyer's absence.

Northern State finished the season ranked #5 in the country and is ranked #14 in the Basketball Times Top 20. They return two starters and are led by senior Kevin Ratzsch, who was a Street & Smith's Magazine Second-Team Preseason All-American. Ratzsch, a 6-foot-7 forward from Bloomington, Ill., led the Wolves and finished fourth in the conference in scoring last season with 16.8 points per game. He also had a team-best 33 steals and 44. Ratzsch earned All-NSIC and All-Region last year. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds in Northern State's 74-68 win over Black Hills.

The Wolves must replace four-year starters Levi Hamilton and Craig Nelson, who both made the All-NSIC Second Team. Hamilton was Northern State's second-leading scorer with 12.0 points per game as he scored in double figures 21 times. Nelson was the third-leading scorer for the Wolves with 11.6 points per game. He led the NSIC and ranked fourth in the nation for three-point percentage, hitting 49.7% from beyond the arc. Luke Witt was the Wolves' fourth leading scorer off the bench with 9.0 points per game. He made 45.2% from beyond the arc and was named to the 2008 All-NSIC Third Team.

Robert Thomas, a 6-foot-10 junior center from Mankato West, played in all 33 games with three starts. He was fifth on the team for scoring with 7.8 points and was second in rebounding with 5.3 caroms per contests. Thomas scored in double figures in seven of the team's final nine games and was named to the NSIC All-Tournament team. Thomas did not play in their exhibition opener.

Kyle Schwan, a 6-foot-1 sixth-year senior, led the team in assists with 2.6 per game and added 6.5 points. He is a native of Aberdeen.

Derek Hoellein, a 6-foot-3 guard, averaged 3.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game last season as a redshirt-freshman. He started in a Northern State exhibition win and led the Wolves with 20 points.

Brett Newton, a 6-foot guard, redshirted last season, but started in the exhibition opener.

Mitch Boeck, a 6-foot-4 junior, started in the exhibition opener and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. He averaged 2.8 points per game last season, coming off the bench.

Marty Gregor, a 6-foot-7 center from Chaska, started in the exhibition opener, after averaging 2.2 points per game in 11 contests last season.

Northern State opens its regular season at home Nov. 18 against Mount Marty College.

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