Gophers Getting Better with JUCO Help

The Gophers' junior-college transfers are catching on and making an impression as Minnesota's men's basketball program continues its ascent.

Tubby Smith had the patience to stick with junior college transfers Devron Bostick and Paul Carter.

Now that they know his language, the Gophers may be adding two more pieces to a deep and talented squad that is already taking the Big Ten by storm.

The Gophers travel to Wisconsin and Northwestern this week brimming with confidence following victories against Iowa and Penn State last week by a combined 33 points.

Minnesota's ability to mix and match defenses has frustrated early league opponents. The latest victim was Penn State, which was feeling pretty good after upsetting Purdue at home. Then the Gophers unplugged one of the conference's more potent attacks, holding both Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle under their scoring averages.

That wasn't nearly as impressive, though, as the performances turned in by the pair of JUCO transfers. As the conference season hits its stride, so too are Bostick and Carter, who combined for 33 points in the victory against Penn State.

"I've had junior college transfers over the years, and they all take awhile to understand the system," Smith said. "It's like going into a different class. The fundamentals are the same, but the terminology, the system, the offense and defense is different. It usually takes them half a year."

That puts Bostick and Carter right on pace. They enter the Jan. 15 game at Wisconsin averaging just eight points between them.

But those high expectations they entered with might be close to being realized. If that duo stays hot, the Gophers might just be the team to beat in the Big Ten.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming from where we came from in junior college, we were the main options. So the ball was going through us. It was one-on-one situations and that's how we're used to playing. In this offense, you're coming off screens, you're curling, you're popping off pick-and-rolls, so that was the only challenge for us." — Paul Carter, on his adjustment to playing Division I during his first season with the Gophers

NOTES

  • No one is averaging even 13 points per game, but Minnesota has 10 players averaging at least 4.0 per game to provide the league's most balanced attack.

  • The Gophers shot a staggering 62.5 percent from the field in its big win against Penn State on Jan. 11.

  • Paul Carter's 14 points against Penn State was the first time he scored in double figures this season.

  • Al Nolen has recorded at least five assists in 11 of 16 games this season. He is averaging 5.9 assists for the year.

  • Ralph Sampson III has blocked three or more shots in four games this season. He has combined with Colton Iverson to block 52 shots in 16 games.

    Tubby Smith had hinted that his bench may get shorter once the conference season arrived, but the Gophers still have 11 players averaging double figures in minutes. No one, though, is averaging more than Al Nolen's 29.2, meaning all legs should be fresh for the final two months.

    IN FOCUS: The Badgers are coming off their first league loss of the season, and the Gophers have a real shot at making it two straight. Michigan State is the only league opponent to shoot better than 40 percent against the Gophers. Not surprisingly, the Spartans are the only team to have beaten them. The Badgers enter shooting 46 percent for the season.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Lawrence Westbrook, G Al Nolen, F Damian Johnson, F Ralph Sampson III, C Colton Iverson. Key Subs — G Blake Hoffarber, F Paul Carter, F Jamal Abu-Shamala, G/F Travis Busch, G Devoe Joseph, G Devron Bostick.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Minnesota 68, Ohio State 59

    Minnesota 52, Iowa 49

    Minnesota 79, Penn State 59

    GAME PREVIEW:

    at Wisconsin, Thursday, Jan. 15

    at Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 18

    vs. Purdue, Thursday, Jan. 22

    at Indiana, Sunday, Jan. 25


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