TWU – Jacob Doerksen 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals
Minn. – Devoe Joseph 15 points, 2 rebounds 5 steals
Langley, B. C. – Facing a NCAA Div. 1 team is a tough thing to do in the pre-season but the Trinity Western Spartans proved they can play with the big boys.
Despite a valiant comeback in the fourth quarter, the Spartans were unable to overcome the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and fell, 80-68.
The Spartans were coming off a 94-69 win over the BC Titans on Thursday, Sept. 2 but knew they were in for a much tougher game against the team from Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers were in B.C. on a three game road trip and had started the west coast adventure with an 80-62 win over the UBC Thunderbirds. The Gophers easily cruised to the victory with over 44% shooting in the game against UBC.
TWU knew they were in for a tough game against their American adversary.
Leading the Spartan offense against Minnesota was a game-high 23 point effort by forward Jacob Doerksen and a hard fought 38 minutes from point guard Tristan Smith, who had 15 points in the losing effort.
Head coach, Scott Allen called the Spartans’ performance “gutsy” but also said, “we still have to learn how to win. There’s no reason we couldn’t have won that game at the end.”
The Spartans started the game shooting just 3-for-13 in the first quarter and found themselves in a hole early, trailing 17-8 through one quarter.
If not for their disastrous shooting to start the game, the Spartans could very well have won the game as they matched the Golden Gophers the rest of the way.
By running the court and playing a good transition game the Spartans were able to fire up the crowd in the second quarter with their fast-paced offense and could have been tied going into the half, except their shooting remained cold from long range, making just 3 of nine three-point opportunities.
The second quarter was also when Golden Gophers PG Devoe Joseph, from Pickering, Ontario, finally woke up. Joseph had eight points in the second quarter including a three-pointer to end the first half.
Trailing 37-28 at the break, Coach Allen said his team was playing pretty well despite the high tempo of the game and considering they were still trying to shake off some early season rust.
Whatever Allen said to his team in the locker room at the half lit a fire under the hometown Spartans as they came out flying in the third quarter.
Led by Doerksen’s great shooting beyond the arc and Smith’s ability to control the flow of the game the Spartans looked impressive early in the third quarter and had regained control of the game.
The team was no longer just trying to avoid embarrassment, they were in it to win it.
Unfortunately, they were unable to contain Golden Gophers’ forwards Colton Iverson, Trevor Mbakwe and Maurice Walker on the inside and were paying the price on the boards and on the scoreboard.
Down by 13 heading to the fourth the Spartans managed to find one more gear.
Trinity’s leaders, Doerksen and Smith, stepped up in the fourth quarter, each contributing eight points in the final frame and helped pull the Spartans within two with just over five minutes to go.
Queue the Devoe Joseph show.
After Tristan Smith nailed a three-pointer to pull the Spartans within two, Joseph was able to draw a foul on the ensuing play. Joseph made the first free throw but after missing the second the Golden Gophers grabbed one of their 19 offensive rebounds.
After a short scuffle, Devoe nailed a three-pointer to extend the lead to six.
He then stole the ball from Lance Verhoeff, who fouled Joseph in the process and nailed two more free throws.
This was effectively the end for the Spartans.
All that remained was an exclamation point, added by potential first-rounder in the 2011 NBA Draft, Rodney Williams, when he went up above everyone to slam home a devastating dunk to seal it.
After the game, Coach Allen said, “I couldn’t have asked more of the guys. They really battled.”
“I think that everyone feels very satisfied playing a team like that but satisfaction is only going to take us so far.”
“We’re going to have to mature a lot in the next few months in order to take a run at a national championship.”
With newcomers like Smith added to the already solid veteran core of Doerksen, Verhoeff and Tyrell Mara it is conceivable that this team very well could make such a run.
The Spartans now have over a month off before their regular season starts and will have to work on some ball control among other things before taking on Laurentian at home on Oct. 14.
Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers will be at the University of Victoria for another exhibition game on Sept. 5 before returning home to start their season.