FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - For one half, Minnesota looked like a road weary team. But a change in strategy to a more aggressive approach turned things around for the unbeaten Gophers.
“It was out of desperation that we had to start pressuring because they were hurting us inside,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “So we thought we would attack them before they could get it across half court.”
The Gophers had watched Colorado State shoot 52 percent and do pretty much whatever it wanted in the first 20 minutes. Minnesota was also outrebounded 18-12 in the first half.
“So, we wanted to come out and be more aggressive defensively,” Smith said.
The move worked. Minnesota stepped up its defensive pressure and Paul Carter hit a game-winning layup with 18.9 seconds left to lift Minnesota to a 72-71 victory over Colorado State Saturday night.
Blake Hoffarber led the Gophers with 20 points and was 5-for-8 on 3-pointers. Al Nolen added 16 points for Minnesota (4-0).
The Gophers haven’t started off a season with four wins since the 2002-2003 season.
Andre McFarland and Andy Ogide had 16 points each for Colorado State (2-1). Dan Vandervieren chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds for the Rams.
Minnesota employed a full court press from the start of the second half to the final buzzer. That left little room for the Rams to operate and they turned the ball over 11 times and shot only 40 percent in the second half.
“It’s systemically what they do,” Colorado State coach Tim Miles said of the Minnesota pressure defense. “They forced turnovers that were catastrophic in the second half and it neutralized our hard work from the first half.”
Layups by Travis Busch and Devoe Joseph off steals had given Minnesota a 61-57 lead with 7:20 to go, but the Rams climbed back to take a 67-66 lead on Dan Vanderviren’s rebound basket with 2:40 remaining. Minnesota’s Nolen and CSU’s McFarland exchanged 3-pointers to see the game tied at 70 at 1:07 of the second half.
Seconds later Colorado State went ahead 71-70 on one free throw by Ogide. Nolen found Carter unguarded under the basket for the game winner.
“I was just going in to rebound and I got a wonderful pass down low,” Carter said. “All I had to do was lay the ball up.”
Damian Johnson preserved the win by blocking Marcus Walker’s shot out of bounds with less than a second left. McFarland missed a wide open shot from 17 feet at the buzzer.
“That is our design for a last-second shot,” Walker said. “It was wide open and we didn’t knock it down.”