Minnesota knocks off West Virginia to capture the 2010 PRTO championship
By Jon Cooper
The fourth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off featured three days of explosive basketball, superb comebacks and dramatic finishes. When the smoke cleared, Tubby Smith and the Minnesota Golden Gophers proved too much for the rest of the field to handle, knocking off Bob Huggins and West Virginia in the championship game. Here’s a look at the 2010 field:
The Wildcats were hampered in their opener by cold, long-range shooting and frequent whistles, losing 84-70 to West Virginia. The ’Cats made only two of 22 three-point attempts—0-for-9 in the first half—and trailed by 13 at the half. Brendan McKillop and De’Mon Brooks each scored 15, and Brooks added seven rebounds. Four Wildcats fouled out in a game that saw 67 fouls (37 against Davidson) and seven disqualifications. Davidson shot 20 fewer free throws and was outscored by 13 from the foul line. In their next game, 15 was a magic number, as Jake Cohen had 15 points in the first half and McKillop scored 15 of his game-high 21 in the second, as the Wildcats knocked off Nebraska, 70-67. Brooks added 11 points and nine boards off the bench. Davidson overcame an early nine-point deficit and took its biggest lead (55-48) with 7:28 to play, then held off the Huskers, who twice got to within one in the final minute. Davidson clinched fourth place by topping Western Kentucky, 64-51. JP Kuhlman’s 16 points and nine rebounds and a strong defensive effort lifted the Wildcats. Davidson limited the Hilltoppers to 28.6 shooting in the first half in jumping out to an 18-4 lead. Freshman Jordan Downing’s six straight points extended the lead to 13 as Davidson, which shot 57.1 in the second half, pulled away.
Hofstra didn’t find San Juan weather to its liking, specifically the torrent of threes raining on them in their 107-63 opener loss to North Carolina. Charles Jenkins had 24 points, 20 in the first half on 9-of-11 shooting, but Carolina went on a 19-6 run in a little more than 2:30 to break the game open. Junior guard Mike Moore added 15 for the Pride, who never led and trailed 58-33 at intermission. The Pride suffered a heartbreaking 62-60 loss to Western Kentucky in their next game. Jenkins scored 27 points, his 12th straight 20-point game, and Moore had his first career double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds). Hofstra led by as much as 14 with 5:18 to play and held a seven-point edge inside of two minutes, before allowing a 12-3 run to close the game. In their finale, Jenkins had a game-high 15, but the Pride shot only 30.8 percent and fell to Nebraska, 62-47. Sophomore forward David Imes scored eight points as Hofstra jumped out to an early 10-5 lead. But the Pride went without a field goal the final 9:02 of the first half and never recovered, trailing by 11 at the break and never getting to within single digits.
Minnesota shot a blazing 62.5 percent, 67.7 percent in the second half, to pull away from stubborn Western Kentucky, 95-77. Ralph Sampson III led the Gophers with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Trevor Mbakwe added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Sampson and Mbakwe scored eight of 10 points in Minnesota’s 10-2 run to open the second half, opening a 16-point lead. The Gophers were not challenged thereafter. In their next game, Blake Hoffarber scored 20 and Mbakwe and Sampson added 12, as Minnesota overcame a sloppy first half to upset No. 8 North Carolina, 72-67. The teams combined for 25 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, but Hoffarber’s nine points sparked the Gophers to a 27-24 halftime lead. UM extended the lead to eight then held off the Tar Heels. Guard Al Nolen knocked down a key late three to make it a two-possession game, and the Gophers hit eight of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the game. In the championship, Hoffarber drained a go-ahead three with 1:32 to play to break a 70-70 tie as Minnesota edged West Virginia, 74-70. Nolen came up big, scoring 17, including 11 of 12 from the line, and Colton Iverson went for 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Mbakwe had 16 points and seven rebounds, sealing tournament MVP honors. Hoffarber, who scored 12 points, nailing four of nine three-point attempts, joined Mbakwe on the All-Tournament Team.
Nebraska couldn’t finish in their opener, falling 59-49 to Vanderbilt. Sophomore Brandon Ubel scored a team-high 10, but the Huskers shot only 28.6 percent in the second half and went without a field goal the final 7:49. NU held a 28-12 edge in points in the paint, but shot 35.3 for the game, and 0-for-10 from three—the first time in 341 games that they went without a three. Jorge Brian Diaz had eight points and a game-high-tying eight rebounds. NU dropped another tough one in its next game, losing 70-67 to Davidson. Lance Jeter had a team-high 18 on 7-for-8 shooting (2-for-3 from three), and added five assists and a career-high four steals. The Huskers led by nine in the first half and shot 63.2 percent in the second half, but fell prey to Davidson’s seven three-pointers. Diaz had 13 points, including eight straight points, to pull NU to within one with 61 seconds left, but they would never equalize. Nebraska made only two of 11 three-point attempts. The finale was a showcase for native son Diaz, who scored a team-high 11 points as the Huskers knocked off Hofstra, 62-47. Nebraska had 10 different players score in forging a 37-5 edge in bench points. The Huskers finally found their touch from three, shooting 6-for-12, and held Hofstra without a field goal for the final 9:06 of the first half and to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half. Brandon Richardson dished out a career-high seven assists for the Huskers, who led by as much as 22 in the second half.
Freshman sensation Harrison Barnes showed why he was voted preseason All-America, going 4-for-5 from three and scoring 19 points in 25 minutes as No. 8 North Carolina buried Hofstra, 107-63. The Tar Heels shot 88.9 from three in the first half (8-for-9) to lead by 25 at the intermission, and led by as much as 47 in setting Honda Puerto Rico Tip-Off records for points, first-half points, field goals, field goal attempts, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and assists. Leslie McDonald was 4-for-6 from three and added 16 points, as six different players scored in double figures. The tables turned in the second game, as Carolina shot only 36.9 percent—a sluggish 29 percent in the first half and only 22.2 percent from three—in falling to Minnesota, 72-67. Tyler Zeller led Carolina with 16 points and Reggie Bullock had 11, while John Henson grabbed 12 rebounds. The Heels trailed by three at the half, and never led in the second half. Barnes was 0-for-12 from the floor, managing only six points. In UNC’s final game, Zeller, who was named to the All-Tournament team, went for 20 and 10, but the Heels lost to Vanderbilt, 72-65. UNC was 0-for-4 from three in the first half, falling behind by 10 at intermission. Carolina took its last lead with 10:00 left, but then surrendered a 10-2 run and never got closer than two.
The Commodores used a late 16-3 run to get past Nebraska, 59-49, in their opener. John Jenkins scored a game-high 22, and Jeffery Taylor added 14. Jenkins scored five straight points, including his only three of the game, to give Vandy a 48-46 lead, and Steve Tchiengang’s three opened a six-point lead late. The Commodores held the Huskers scoreless from three and outscored Nebraska 15-2 off turnovers. Against West Virginia, the Commodores rallied from 14 down to tie the game, but dropped a heart-breaking 74-71 decision when WVU’s Casey Mitchell hit a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. Jenkins, who was 5-for-11 from three and 10-for-10 from the foul line, scored a game-high 27 points. Vandy opened the second half on a 21-10 run and shot 20 of 27 from the foul line to erase a nine-point deficit, tying the game with 2:01 to play and again with 32.1 to play. Both teams shot under 40 percent and under 30 percent from three. Vanderbilt bounced back in its final game, posting a 72-65 upset of No. 8 North Carolina, behind 16 from Jenkins, who would earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team, and 15 from Taylor and Festus Ezeli. The win was Vanderbilt’s first over a top-10 team since Feb. 26, 2008, when it knocked off No. 1 Tennessee. Jenkins shot only 2-for-10, but made 10 of 12 free throws, nailing two with 8:05 left. That gave Vandy the lead for good before going 6-for-6 in the final minute.
West Virginia used a smothering defense to down Davidson, 84-70, in its opener. The Mountaineers limited the Wildcats to 2-for-22 shooting from three (0-for-9 in the first half) and used a 17-4 run to open an 18-point lead. That lead stayed in double digits the entire second half. WVU out-shot Davidson 49-29 at the foul line and outscored them 31-18 from the stripe. Darryl “Truck” Bryant matched his career high with 22 points, shooting 7-of-14, 6-of-8 from the line, and Casey Mitchell was 6-for-6 on FTAs. In its next game, West Virginia led for almost 38 minutes, but needed a three-pointer by Mitchell with 3.8 seconds left to beat Vanderbilt, 74-71. The Mountaineers led by 11 at halftime as Mitchell, who scored a career-high 31, poured in the team’s first 11 points, then 14 of the final 19. But WVU’s inability to hit from three after Vandy switched to a 2-3 zone allowed the Commodores to tie the game with 2:01 left. John Flowers’ two free throws and Mitchell’s three proved decisive. In a championship game that had 10 ties and nine lead changes, West Virginia dropped a tough 74-70 decision against Minnesota. Mitchell, who would be named to the All-Tournament Team, went off for a team-high 27, but he missed a potential game-tying three late. Deniz Kilicli grabbed 10 rebounds, six on the offensive end, both game highs. WVU missed 11 of 23 free throws and made only 3 of 11 second-half threes, trailing by double digits for most of the second half.
Steffphon Pettigrew scored a game-high 25 points and Sergio Kerusch had 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, but Western Kentucky faded in the second-half, losing to Minnesota, 95-77, in its opener. The Hilltoppers trailed 40-34 at the half, but shot 36.1 percent in the second half and couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Golden Gophers, who converted at 66.7 percent from the field. In its next game, WKU overcame a 14-point deficit in the final 5:18 to edge Hofstra, 62-60. Juan Pattillo had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Hilltoppers closed the game on a 12-3 run in the final 1:45 to erase a seven-point deficit. Western made 40 percent of its threes in the final 20 minutes and held off the Pride, which shot 57.1 in the second half. Pettigrew added 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. In the finale, Pattillo had his second straight double-double in the tournament, going for 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, but cold shooting doomed Western, which never led and fell to Davidson, 64-51. The Hilltoppers shot 28.6 percent in the first half (making two of their first 17 field goal attempts) and only 30.9 for the game (26.7 from three, including 16.7 in the first half, and only 41.7 from the foul line). WKU trailed 28-22 at halftime and by four early in the second, but never got closer, trailing by double digits the final 9:30.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.