Minnesota cruises past N. Dakota State 90-76Senior Jamal Abu-Shamala provided the spark and veteran leadership. Freshman Ralph Sampson III provided the finishing touch.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Senior Jamal Abu-Shamala provided the spark and veteran leadership. Freshman Ralph Sampson III provided the finishing touch.
Abu-Shamala scored nine of his season-high 20 points during a 14-1 run to start the game and Minnesota fought off a second-half charge to beat North Dakota State 90-76 on Saturday.
The only healthy senior on the Gophers’ roster, Abu-Shamala reached the 20-point plateau for just the second time in his career. He had a career-high 27 against Michigan in 2007.
Lawrence Westbrook, who missed the previous game with an injured right shin, returned to score 17 points for Minnesota.
Ralph Sampson III scored a season-high 12 points and Damian Johnson added 11 as Minnesota improved to 6-0, its best start since racing out to the same record during the 1999-2000 season.
“I’ve been through a lot in the four years and its important to get a good start in the game and you’ve got to keep that going,” Abu-Shamala said. “I just want to keep communicating to the young guys that you can’t let up, you’ve got to keep the intensity up. That’s something I hope they see and I hope they take in.”
Sampson certainly took note, going 5-for-5 in the second half — including back-to-back buckets during a 6-0 run to fight off a North Dakota State rally.
Bison senior Mike Nelson scored 16 of his season-high 22 points in the second half to keep the game close, including a pair of three-pointers that cut the deficit to 10 points with under six minutes to play.
But Sampson had a three-point play after Nelson’s first long-range shot and his two inside shots helped the Gophers maintain a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.
“He showed a lot of skills out there using both hands, catching the ball, blocking shots,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.
The Gophers shot a season-best 62 percent in the game — 65 percent in the second half.
Abu-Shamala scored eight points during an 11-2 run to give Minnesota a 17-point lead with 13 minutes to play. The last four points came on free throws after Bison sophomore Freddy Coleman failed to draw a charge and coach Saul Phillips picked up a technical foul for slamming his sport coat to the floor in disgust.
“They shot the heck out of the ball. We couldn’t get any traction defensively,” Phillips said. “They made every play. We couldn’t get stops when we needed it most and Sampson really put the nail in the coffin with putbacks at the end.”
Prior to the run, North Dakota State had sliced Minnesota’s lead to eight points.
The Bison hit five of eight 3-pointers in the second half.
“We wanted to challenge every pass and try to wear them down, but obviously we didn’t do a very good job in some ways,” Smith said. “We had to play an unbelievable game and we still struggled in some areas to get the win.”
Minnesota went 4-of-6 from 3-point range to take a 38-28 halftime lead.
Seniors Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman scored 16 points for the Bison, who have not defeated the Gophers since 1936.
Minnesota improved to 24-1 all-time against North Dakota State
The Gophers’ 90 points were a season high.