Readers' response to the No. 9-ranked Gophers' 13-point victory over No. 18 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both teams Monday afternoon at Williams Arena:
Scott Nagy, South Dakota State men's basketball head coach – “It doesn't surprise me at all what the Gophers did to Michigan State. Minnesota has one of the best teams we have ever played since I've been at SDSU. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them contend for the Big 10 title.”
Ron Jirsa, Gophers men's basketball assistant coach – “After the game Coach (Tubby) Smith emphasized to the team that we did the fundamental things that you need to do to win. He pointed out that we did a good job of executing on both offense and defense at key times and that he was expecting the team to continue with that as we move forward in the Big Ten season.”
Dave Thorson, DeLaSalle boy's basketball head coach – “The biggest factor in the Gopher win on Monday, and their season thus far, has been their ability to offensive rebound after a miss. Their percentage of getting second chances has been near 50%, which is a high rate. They will be tough to defeat if they keep that percentage as high going into the Big Ten season.”
Sen. Terri Bonoff – “Very proud of our Gophers! What a great start to the Big Ten season.”
Pam Borton, Gophers women's basketball head coach: "Great win for our men vs. MSU! Great start to the Big Ten season, protecting home court and the fans at the game were definitely the 6th player. This team is very focused and a tight knit group. I can see why Tubby likes this group... nice group of guys off the floor also."
Fred Friedman, longtime chief public defender of Minnesota’s Sixth District (northeastern Minnesota) and University of Minnesota Duluth associate professor – “First clutch, early-conference win in years. Let's see how they play on the road and how their health holds up before we enrich the scalpers.”
Gophers women's hockey head coach Brad Frost – “Great win for the Gophers over Michigan State. The barn was rockin' – which was wonderful to see.”
Don Ness, mayor of Duluth and a former, standout shooting guard at Duluth Central – “It’s been a frustrating decade to be a Big Ten basketball fan, but this year is shaping up to be one of the best ever. I think it’s going to rival some of the great Big Ten seasons of the 90s. Of course, it’s especially exciting to see the Gophers in the mix and I think they’ll be in contention the entire conference schedule. In a normal year, I’d probably predict a conference championship, but the league is just too deep to have that sort of confidence. I like the Gophers balance, the fact they have 5-6 guys who can carry a team for a time. Maybe most important for the Big 10 schedule, this is a high energy, hard-nosed team. We haven’t had that sort of make-up and inside-outside balance since the '97 team. It’s going to be exciting.”
Frank Yetka, attorney and former, high-leaping Cloquet Lumberjacks power forward: “The Gophers are solid and deep. For the first time in four years, they were able to match up physically with Michigan State and given our depth inside we wore them down at the end when their two big guys Payne and Nicks finally picked up crucial fouls. We still are somewhat suspect at guard in protecting the ball. We still had too many turnovers. But the pure athletic ability and depth on this team is something. Williams, Welch, Coleman – are all launching pads. Mbakwe finally gives us a presence inside that will be important in the Big Ten to go without jumpers. Tubby coached a heck of a game, didn't panic and stayed with the rotation and wore down a great Michigan State team. Indiana will have trouble with us. The teams that we are vulnerable to are those that can shoot from the outside and have great penetrating guards, because we do not have a shut down defender in the front court.”
Terry Miller, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City boys basketball head coach -- “Was at the game. Execution and poise down the stretch was the key. It was only one game, but it gave me hope. The defense was very good in stretches, but will have to be better from the foul line to win the big ones.”
Jon Donahue, of The Average Guys – “Whatever Tubby is selling, the team is buying it. They're playing like the team I was hoping for when Tubby arrived.”
Chad Ostermann, Maple River boy's basketball head coach – "It is a great way for the Gophers to start the Big Ten season. They went through some adversity in the second half and fought through it against a physically tough top-20 Michigan State team. I think they showed the whole nation that they are going to be in the thick of things in the Big Ten."
Mike Aro, Eveleth-Gilbert boy's basketball head coach – “Great to see the Gophers come out with the nice victory over Michigan State, played before a packed 'Barn' on Monday. (Trevor) Mbwake, (Rodney) Williams, and (Andre) Hollins led the total team effort that shows why Minnesota is, in my mind, in for a great year. Go Gophers!”
David Flom, Eden Prairie boy's basketball head coach – “The Gophers appear to have the level of toughness, both mentally and physically, to fight for a Big Ten Championship. It's rare that a team can out-tough Michigan St, but they did that yesterday.”
Sen. David Senjem – “The Gophers are an exciting team with great talent. Defeating Michigan State proves to the team and the fans they are real. Defense and chemistry will determine how far they go.”
Rich Newman, Barnum boy's basketball head coach – “Great win against a very respected program. Great defense at the end of the game. A athletic team that is fun to watch. Happy for Tubby.”
Ryan Hauge, St. Francis boy's basketball head coach – “I thought that other than a stretch at the end of first half we outplayed them the entire game. Our athleticism is impressive and the key was consistently getting stops down the stretch. I think we have some areas to improve at in our offensive execution, but if we can do that our depth should really help us come tournament time and this team could make a deep run.”
Kirk Johnson, Rochester John Marshall boy's basketball head coach – "I love watching the Gophers play this year. They just seem far more athletic than they have been in the past years. It is great to see some of these players really step up. Wow, has Andre Hollins improved from a year ago."
Sen. Paul Gazelka – “The Gophers men's basketball team is the real deal!”
Coach Don Lucia on the recent play of his top-ranked Gophers (13-3-3), who pounded Air Force 4-0 and Boston College 8-1 in the Mariucci Classic: “Our goal was to win our Christmas tournament, and I am extremely happy with how we played in defeating Air Force and Boston College. It was a great way to begin the second half of the season and improve to 7-0 non-conference.”