Arizona State 63

(4-3, 0-1 away)

Minnesota 66

(3-5, 3-4 home)

    1:00 PM ET, December 2, 2006

    1 2 T
    ASU 30 3363
    MINN 32 3466

    Top Performers

    Arizona St: J. Ayres 19 Pts, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Stl

    Minnesota: D. Coleman 15 Pts, 3 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk

    McKenzie's 20 points lift Minnesota in Molinari's debut

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- For the first time in eight seasons, Dan Monson was nowhere near Williams Arena on Gopher game day.

    He'll still get the game ball from Minnesota's latest win.

    Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points to help Jim Molinari win his debut as Minnesota coach in the Gophers' 66-63 victory over Arizona State on Saturday.

    "Coach Mo said the first win we got we were going to sign the ball and give it to coach," forward Spencer Tollackson said. "Guys were feeling pretty good, but at the same time there was a little bit of remorse. It was pretty bittersweet that coach wasn't there and wasn't our leader today and probably never will be."

    Dan Coleman added 15 points for Minnesota (3-5), which snapped a five-game losing streak, but just barely, that ultimately cost Monson his job.

    Jeff Pendergraph had 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead Arizona State (4-3), which nearly pulled out its second stunning comeback in a week.

    The Gophers led by 19 with 7:38 to play, but had fits with the fullcourt press and went without a field goal over the final 5:22 to let Arizona State back in the game.

    The Sun Devils scored 13 straight points to cut Minnesota's lead to 63-60 with 52 seconds to play, and Jerren Shipp hit a 3-pointer while falling to the ground with 25 seconds left that made it 65-63.

    After Coleman made one free throw, Shipp's long 3-pointer from the top of the key was off the mark, snapping ASU's three-game win streak.

    "The mindset is, 'Why are we down by 19 in the first place?" Pendergraph said. "And what can we do to prevent that from happening?"

    Molinari, who was named interim head coach on Thursday after Monson was forced to resign just seven games into his eighth season as Gophers coach, breathed a huge sigh of relief as the buzzer sounded.

    "Obviously we could've won it in a better way, but I think we avoided a devastating loss," Molinari said. "If you don't hold on there, then their confidence is really shot."

    Overmatched in recruiting and when it came to coaching on the court, Monson was unable to get the Gophers to rebound from a slew of severe NCAA restrictions brought on by an academic fraud scandal under former coach Clem Haskins.

    The Gophers were embarrassed at home by Division II Winona State in exhibition play and entered the day with the school's longest nonconference losing streak in more than 40 years. The five-game skid included defeats to Marist, Montana and Wednesday night's 90-68 loss to Clemson that ultimately sent Monson packing.

    Athletics director Joel Maturi turned to Monson's top assistant, the head coach at Bradley from 1991-2002, to try and salvage a season that got off to a disastrous start.

    Molinari, the "defensive coordinator" under Monson, received a warm ovation from a sparse crowd upon being introduced before the game and a few signs read "Let's Go Coach Mo" and "Mo-Mentum."

    "It's a lot different having the whole pie rather than one piece," Molinari said. "I understood what was going on when I worked with Dan. I just tried to coach in the moment, keep going possession by possession and then rely on my instincts."

    Molinari's emphasis on defense was apparent throughout the game. All five Gophers slapped the ground on defense throughout the second half, a gimmick Duke has used for years to signify defensive intensity.

    "Everything with coach Mo is defense," Jamal Abu-Shamala said.

    They held Arizona State without a field goal for the first 5:28 of the period as the Sun Devils missed 14 of their first 17 shots.

    McKenzie opened the second half with two 3-pointers and Abu-Shamala added another to give the Gophers a 41-31 lead less than 2½ minutes into the second half.

    Unlike their victory against Iowa a week ago, when they outscored the Hawkeyes 19-4 over the final six minutes and won on Christian Polk's 35-foot heave, the Sun Devils couldn't finish off another furious rally.

    Polk scored 16 points on Saturday and Serge Angounou added seven points and 10 rebounds for Arizona State.

    In his first season in Tempe, coach Herb Sendek knows he's going to see plenty of ups and downs with a young team that starts three freshmen.

    "Our team, right now, has little to no margin for error, no matter who we play," said Sendek, who didn't think Minnesota's coaching change had much to do with the outcome on Saturday.

    Tollackson disagreed, saying the emotions of playing for Monson definitely helped.

    "He text messaged me after the game and said 'Good job. I'm proud of you guys," Tollackson said. "So obviously he still cares. This win's a little bittersweet for me right now."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 63 66
    FG Made-Attempted 21-54 (.389) 26-51 (.510)
    3P Made-Attempted 5-18 (.278) 6-16 (.375)
    FT Made-Attempted 16-26 (.615) 8-17 (.471)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 18 (0/0) 21 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 5 19

    2006-07 Season

    Arizona St leads 13-3
    » Dec 2, 2006 @MINN 66, ASU 63Recap