Minnesota is awaiting Jamison Battle’s recovery from foot surgery and Dawson Garcia looks like the top option to fill the void.
The Golden Gophers needed Garcia to escape with a win in their season opener and are hoping for a less stressful experience Friday night when they host St. Francis Brooklyn in Minneapolis.
Minnesota (1-0) opened the season Monday by escaping with a 61-60 win over Western Michigan thanks to Garcia. Garcia scored 23 points, including a clutch late 3-pointer with 1:54 remaining to give the Golden Gophers a nine-point lead.
“We got a bunch of guys who work hard, but he works really hard,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said of Garcia. “When you combine talent with a great work ethic this is what happens. When the opportunity presents itself, you deliver.”
Garcia helped Minnesota get the win without Battle, who will also be out Friday. Besides Garcia’s contribution, Johnson is hoping to see another productive showing from Ta’Lon Cooper, who added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
While Garcia and Cooper were productive, they combined to miss six free throws as Minnesota missed 14 of 23 at the line.
“We made some shots down the stretch, but we’ve definitely got to clean up the free throws,” Garcia said.
St. Francis (1-0) is picked fifth in the Northeast Conference after going 10-20 last season. The Terriers started with a 96-56 rout of Division III opponent Mount Saint Mary College when Zion Bethea scored 24 points in a game where they led by 21 at halftime.
Rob Higgins (13 points, 10 assists in the opener) is the top returning scorer from last season and is an All-NEC preseason pick.
“Rob has been a leader in our locker room for the past three seasons and this selection shows how much work he has put in over that time,” Terriers coach Glenn Braica said. “We look forward to his continued growth this year.”
St. Francis is 0-5 all-time against current Big Ten teams.
–Field Level Media