This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Gophers postgame: Against North Florida, defense prevails for Minnesota once again

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: December 1, 2012 - 5:45 PM

If the Gophers can keep up this defense, they could continue to sit pretty.

After a sluggish start, the Gophers clamped down and did what they did best, harassing North Florida into a very poor finish.

Minnesota picked up season highs in blocks (13) and steals (15), impressive figures no matter the opponent, while at the same time scoring a season high 87 points.

While the Gophers did not shoot well from outside today, they did most everything pretty well, including not allowing a quick early deficit to get under their skin. That, for sure, is a change from a year ago, as is the Gophers tenacity in continuing to put away a team even after they’ve built a large lead.

Because of those things, the Gophers were able to put away North Florida despite a 22-point game from Parker Smith and a lowly 1-for-13 performance from three-point range for Minnesota.

In all, another encouraging win.

Some other notes on today’s 87-59 victory:

• Once the Gophers got going today, they looked pretty solid. After initially looking a little off-kilter against North Florida’s 2-3 zone and allowing the Ospreys to build an 18-10 lead on easy layups, Minnesota cracked down. They started putting pressure on the Ospreys and harassed them into a bunch of silly turnovers, which they cashed in for 31 points.

• And offensively, the Gophers didn’t look bad either, other than the egregious 1-for-13 from three-point range (Maverick Ahanmisi’s shot by the bench late in the second made sure the Gophers didn’t go o-fer). “We had some wide open looks,” Tubby Smith said. “It just didn’t go.”

• The Gophers dominated in the paint against smaller North Florida tonight, out-rebounding them 48-35, but a stunning 25 of those were offensive boards for the Gophers. Minnesota had a pretty strong team effort there with six guys grabbing at least four.

• Mbakwe proved to be a big spark plug off the bench again for the Gophers, contributing 11 much-needed points in the first half. “I think it is a spark, Trevor coming off the bench,” Austin Hollins said. “He’d do good in the starting lineup, don’t get me wrong, but coming off the bench, he’s doing a great job too.”

• Again, baby steps here with the turnovers. A game after netting 12, the Gophers committed 13 today. It’s not where they want to be, but it’s certainly improvement. Andre Hollins said yesterday that he thinks the team’s biggest problems with turnovers is when they are playing too timidly with the ball.

• The Gophers held North Florida scoreless for an 8:09 stretch in the first half after they got grooving, which was ended by a three-pointer from BaeBae Daniels.

• The Gophers had six players finish with nine points or more, including nine-point games from both Mo Walker and Oto Oseniks. Osenieks also had five rebounds and two steals in by far his best game of the year.

• Andre Ingram didn’t play today due to his grandmother passing. Said Rodney Williams (his roommate): “Right now, I’m just trying to give him his space and let him handle it the way he wants to. We’ve all got him in our prayers.”

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