Tubby was ‘bored’ by offense last season

Published 8:47am Tuesday, November 1, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS  — If the Minnesota fans who filed into Williams Arena last season were frustrated by the Golden Gophers’ stagnant, disjointed half-court offense, they weren’t alone.

Coach Tubby Smith has long preferred a fast-paced offense that feeds off full-court pressure defense. None of that was present last season as the short-handed Gophers lost 10 of their last 11 games to miss out on the NCAA tournament. They averaged just 63.7 points in Big Ten play and shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range.

“It was ridiculous,” Smith said Monday. “(Even) I was bored.”

Smith prioritized good shooting in recruiting after career 3-point leader Blake Hoffarber graduated and the Gophers have focused on returning to an up-tempo style of play in the preseason. The fans will get their first look at how all that work is playing out when the Gophers open the exhibition season at home on Tuesday night against Division II Bemidji State.

“This year will be totally different,” Smith said. “We’re trying to extend our defense. We didn’t press at all over the last 12 games of the season. Really didn’t have the personnel. So we didn’t play anything but half-court basketball.”

Injuries to point guard Al Nolen and big man Mo Walker and the transfer of versatile guard Devoe Joseph left Smith with a team that was too young and too limited to employ the kind of style that he has used for so many years. Hoffarber was the only threat from the perimeter, which allowed defenses to collapse on Trevor Mbakwe in the paint.

With no true point guard to start the break, the Gophers spent the entire second half of the conference season walking the ball up and running a half-court offense with no discernible flow.

So Smith brought in guards Joe Coleman, Julian Welch, Andre Hollins and forward Andre Ingram to bolster the perimeter, and he said this is his best shooting team in five seasons at Minnesota. The infusion of youth and shooting skills have been the biggest difference in practices this year, Smith said.

“We’ve got more people that can make outside shots and keep people honest, keep people from doubling and trapping inside on Trevor and Ralph (Sampson III),” Smith said.