Holy Cross 56

(3-2, 2-1 away)

Minnesota 72

(3-3, 3-2 home)

    2:00 PM ET, December 4, 2004

    1 2 T
    HC 28 2856
    MINN 39 3372

    Top Performers

    Holy Cross: K. Hamilton 22 Pts, 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Stl

    Minnesota: V. Grier 19 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    Minnesota 72, Holy Cross 56

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota found itself in a similar position four days after blowing a 14-point lead -- but this time the Gophers used a different approach to achieve a better result.

    Freshman point guard Rico Tucker scored 15 points and dished out five assists as Minnesota bounced back from a loss to Florida State with a 72-56 victory over Holy Cross on Saturday.

    Still smarting from the way they folded down the stretch against the Seminoles, the Gophers (3-3) led by 11 with seven minutes to play against Holy Cross. But instead of sitting on the ball and trying not to lose as they did on Tuesday, Tucker said the Gophers were intent on finishing the job.

    "Everybody looked at each other in the huddle and we knew we had to go ahead and close this one out," he said. "If you can make one last surge against a team on the road you can break their backs, so we just tried to keep up the defensive intensity and make plays."

    Tucker played his best game so far for Minnesota, going 4-of-5 from 3-point range and keeping a firm hand on an offense that faltered down the stretch against Florida State.

    "That was the first time that I've trusted Rico to play the last five minutes of a game," Minnesota coach Dan Monson said, "and I wish in hindsight that maybe he was in there at the end of the Florida State game."

    Junior-college transfer Vincent Grier scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half as Minnesota used a 17-0 run to take a 39-28 halftime lead.

    Trailing 16-12 midway through the first half, Minnesota blanked Holy Cross for more than seven minutes to take a 29-16 lead. Grier had 10 points during the run, converting three fast-break baskets, and Tucker hit a pair of 3-pointers.

    For the game, the Gophers shot 63 percent from the floor, including 15-of-23 in the first half, when many long outlet passes by Tucker and his backcourt mates set up a handful of easy baskets.

    "We practice it every day, and it's like second nature," Grier said. "I feel it's my duty and obligation to get it wherever it's at. They found me in transition and buckets came."

    "I think anyone can connect with Vince, the way he runs the court," Tucker said.

    Holy Cross (3-2) was holding opponents to 36 percent shooting from the floor this season, but the Crusaders had no answer for Minnesota's dynamic performance on Saturday.

    "It's tough to win a game when a team shoots 63 percent," Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. "They got a lot of easy baskets as a result of us gambling (on defense). That's not what we're supposed to do. That's not what we're good at."

    Kevin Hamilton led the Crusaders (3-2) with 22 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line. But Holy Cross shot just 36 percent as a team for the game.

    "We let down defensively in the first half," Hamilton said. "Our transition defense was horrible, and it decided the game. We're a better team than we displayed."

    Brent Lawson scored nine of his 11 points in the second half for the Gophers, who never let the Crusaders get closer than eight points.

    Senior Jeff Hagen, who missed practice time this week with a foot injury, chipped in 12 points and five blocked shots for Minnesota. Freshman Spencer Tollackson made his first start for the Gophers, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds. Tollackson started quickly, scoring two of the Gophers' first three baskets, and provided energy on the boards and under the hoop.

    Monson said he hopes the freshmen Tucker and Tollackson will contribute more as the Big Ten season approaches.

    "(Tucker) and Tollackson are very naive in that they have this ability where they think they can do everything on the court," Monson said. "We want to harness that, but we don't want to beat the will out of them either because they're so confident and aggressive. They are like a fresh breath for us."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 56 72
    FG Made-Attempted 22-61 (.361) 24-38 (.632)
    3P Made-Attempted 9-18 (.500) 4-8 (.500)
    FT Made-Attempted 3-10 (.300) 20-27 (.741)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 12 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 16

    2004-05 Season

    » Dec 4, 2004 @MINN 72, HC 56Recap