Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/7/11

I guess that’s why they play preseason games.

Last Tuesday we saw division two Bemidji State go blow for blow with the Gophers. Last week, division two Northern State Wolves upset the Butler Bulldogs in their preseason contest.

While on paper these games seem like sure blowouts. One must remember that for these small division two schools, this is their shot to show that they deserved that scholarship that was given to the non-local kid.

This sentiment was seen in full force on Monday night as the Augustana Vikings gave the Minnesota Gophers all that they could handle in their preseason contest.

Led by the stunning performance of point guard Drae Murray, and the spirited “welcome home” performance from Elsworth, Minnesota native Cody Schilling, the Vikings showed for part of the night that they can play with the big boys from Minneapolis.

Schilling, who graduated from Elsworth in 2008, is Minnesota’s all-time leading high school scorer.

Alongside Schilling, was point guard Drae Murray who carried the Vikings to a 38-33 halftime lead. Murray went to the locker room with 19 points on 5 of 6 shooting from deep.

As Murray cooled down in the second half, as did the Vikings.

Gophers guard Austin Hollins’ spirited play to open the second half propelled the Gophers to a 15-2 run to start the second half. Hollins scored eight points in the opening moments of the half, highlighted by an ally-oop from Trevor Mbakwe that got the home town crowd off their feet for the first time of the night.

Junior forward Rodney Williams and senior forward Trevor Mbakwe carried the Gophers the rest of the way on both ends of the floor.

Williams finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds, but it was his athleticism that kept Schilling quiet in the second half.

Mbakwe played this game with a nonstop motor. Taking charges, blocking shots, diving on the floor for loose balls, and a variety of other hustle plays that don’t make it in the box score. Don’t tell him this was a preseason game.

With that being said, his box score didn’t look too bad either. 22 points and 13 rebounds for the senior.

In a losing effort, Murray finished with 23 points. Just four of those in the second half.

A few thoughts from tonight’s preseason contest:

  • The Gophers are going to miss Al Nolen a lot this season. While their play will–hopefully– come around evntually, point guards Andre Hollins and Julian Welch didn’t do much to impress the faithful Gopher crowd.
  • Speaking of point guard play, Drae Murray. Potentially, wait, no. The best name in division two basketball. There is no contest.
  • Speaking of Murray: He really took it to the Gopher point guards tonight. This makes me weary of Mr. Jordan Taylor taking it to the young guards that Tubby Smith will throw at him. I expect to see more Chip Armelin guarding other team’s point guards when he comes off the bench.
  • If he hadn’t reassured us over the past two seasons, Rodney Willimas is a freak athlete. Please show me a better athlete than him in college basketball this season. (Paging Katz, Andy)
  • Mbakwe really showed strong leadership. Even in the most inane of games that the Gophers will play this season.
  • Tubby went 12 deep of the bench in the first 11 minutes of the game. Great for these games, but I don’t see him going more than nine deep consistently this season.
  • I can’t get passed the point guard situation. Welch and ‘Dre Hollins have been going back and forth getting reps with the first unit this season. It was Hollins who got the start, but Welch was in during crunch time.
  • The Gophers will be home on Friday night as Bucknell travels to face the Gophers in the regular season opener.
-Brett Cloutier Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier

 

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