There's only so far scrimmaging in practice could get the Gophers men's basketball team, so last Saturday's scrimmage at Oklahoma was a win-win situation no matter the outcome.
Word out of that closed scrimmage was that Minnesota coach Ben Johnson's newcomer-laden team was overmatched against the Sooners. No official box score was kept, but "we needed that," Gophers senior guard Luke Loewe said.
"It was definitely a good learning experience," Loewe said from Wednesday's Gophers media day. "We as a team, we'll definitely take a lot from it to help us."
A one-sided affair wasn't surprising since the Gophers are picked to finish last in the Big Ten during what is expected to be a rebuilding year. The Sooners, coached by Porter Moser from Loyola-Chicago, have the talent to be an upper-half Big 12 team that has NCAA tournament potential.
The Gophers have time to analyze film from the "secret scrimmage" before playing their first opponent in front of fans in Monday's exhibition against Concordia-St. Paul at Williams Arena. Their season opener isn't until Nov. 9 against Missouri Kansas City at the Barn.
"It felt good to go out there and hit somebody else rather than our teammate," senior guard Payton Willis said. "Just develop that camaraderie and chemistry we haven't been able to really do so far, because that was our first time playing together as a team."
The Sooners resembled the size of a Big Ten opponent with long and athletic wings. They had four players 6-foot-9 or taller, including 6-10 Eastern Washington transfer Tanner Groves, last season's Big Sky player of the year.
Sixth-year senior big man Eric Curry, the only returning Gopher playing from last season, wasn't too surprised at all by the level of competition. Facing Oklahoma was likely a big adjustment for freshmen Treyton Thompson and Laye Thiam.
"It really was nothing new," Curry said. "When I got back on the court, it felt like I was playing in the Big Ten tournament in [Indianapolis]. So, it was like a refresher. But just getting [the freshmen] experience definitely played a huge part in that. Just giving them a feel of what's expected to come with high major basketball."
More than the experience on the court, the Gophers, who welcome 10 newcomers, were able to bond by traveling together, even while stuck at the airport when their flight was delayed.
"That was the first time we stayed in a hotel as a team," Loewe said. "We got to go out to eat the night before. We were just chilling at the airport. Our flight got delayed both times."