Big debut night from Dawson Garcia leads Minnesota past Western Michigan 61-60

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Full Game Recap:

  • First Half: The Gophers opened the game with Ta’Lon Cooper, Jaden Henley, Will Ramberg, Treyton Thompson, and Dawson Garcia as their starting five. It looked like the right choice, jumping out to a 12-4 lead. Western Michigan quickly responded as Minnesota’s offense stalled, cutting the lead to 14-12 with ~12 minutes to go in half No. 1. Offense continued to be a struggle for the Maroon & Gold, but as Dawson Garcia started to heat up so did the Gophers. Finishing with 12 points in the first half, Garcia and Ta’Lon Cooper led a 10-2 run to close out the half, resulting in a 35-36 halftime lead.
  • Second half: Dawson Garcia came out of the half with something to prove, scoring all six of the Gophers’ first six points, Minnesota led 41-32 heading into the under-16 timeout. The duo of Cooper and Garcia continued to handle things for the Maroon & Gold, leading 45-37 with 11:32 to go. The transfer tandem continued to lead the way, combining for 35 of the Gophers’ first 53 points, heading into the under-eight-minute media timeout. It was much of the same to finish the game. Minnesota was never able to pull but ultimately came out on top 61-60

Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

This is going to be and has to be a different team with Jamison Battle in the lineup. With great performances from Dawson Garcia and Ta’Lon Cooper, there is plenty of positives to still build off from this game, but there are about just as many holes to fill. There simply are not enough shooters or physical play to compete in the Big Ten at the moment. There is no reason that Ben Johnson cannot get that out of this roster, before then. There is non-conference play for a reason. I think the end score had much to do with a 9-23 mark from the free throw line rather than actually playing down to Western Michigan’s level.
With getting that out of the way, Dawson Garcia is the real deal. He simply plays basketball at a different speed, his ability to seemingly play in slow motion, while letting the game come to him is something that only the most elite offensive players are able to do. He is the complete package and an All-Big level talent. On the other side, Ta’Lon Cooper is a high-level Big Ten PG. After playing all 40 minutes tonight, he finished with 17 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. He will likely not be asked to score that much with Battle in the lineup, but without him, it is a huge positive that he showed that he can. Overall, there was a lot to like about this game, but there is about just as much to improve. This will be a different team with Carrington and Battle in the lineup, but tonight showed that they certainly have some fun pieces and way more depth than last season.

What is Next?:

The Gophers will play host to St. Francis (BK) this Friday at 6:00 p.m. The Terriers are expected to be one of the worst basketball teams in the country this season, ranking 346 (out of 363) on So Friday, will likely not tell us much more about this team, but it will be another opportunity for the new faces to mesh and for Carrington and Battle to get healthy.

Dawson Garcia and Ta’Lon Cooper were big-time transfer pickups and Josh Ola-Joseph, Pharrel Payne and Jaden Henley will make for a very fun young freshman core. There is still plenty to find out about this team, tonight was certainly not a pretty performance by any means, but far from a performance that should concern Gophers fans long-term. It is a long season.

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