NCAA BK

No. 21 Minnesota beats North Florida 87-59

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll knows that the loss to No. 21 Minnesota will help his team later in the season in Atlantic Sun Conference play.

Driscoll said the Ospreys wouldn't face another team as physical as the Gophers, so he offered a different point of view about Saturday's 87-59 loss, stating the games are more important for the individual matchups than the team.

His prime example: junior forward Travis Wallace.

Wallace - making his fifth straight start - scored eight of North Florida's first 16 points as the Osprey's took an early lead against Minnesota. Wallace finished with a season-high 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting and had six rebounds in Saturday's loss, continuing his development as a key starter for North Florida.

''We talked about this the other day privately,'' Driscoll said. ''He's an all-league player and he has the ability to be an all-league player. And when he plays within himself, and he plays within our system, he's an all-league player. Just sometimes, like all kids, sometimes they get out of doing things at certain times and other teams figure things out. You got to be able to fight through that.''

Parker Smith added a team-high 22 points for the Ospreys (3-5), but a season-high 22 turnovers and season-low 35.1 percent shooting doomed North Florida, which had won back-to-back games. The Ospreys were playing without guard Jerron Granberry, who has missed three games since the death of his father, and forward Andy Diaz, who has missed four games with a leg injury.

Diaz's injury opened the door for Wallace to start and Driscoll believes starting has helped Wallace's game grow. He's scored in double-figures in five straight games and adds an interior presence for a team that relies on 3-point shooting. Perhaps playing against the bigger, more physical Gophers will add to Wallace's progression.

Sunday he was matched up often with Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, an athletic 6-foot-8, 245-pound big man who was named to the preseason Lute Olson All-America team. Mbakwe scored 11 points, had six rebounds and three blocks.

''It's just not him, whoever you play you've got to come out there and give it your all,'' Wallace said. ''You got to be physical with them. People at this level, they're all physical, they're all big. You got to find the angles. It's not really who you're playing, its really what you do.''

But Minnesota's physicality was an issue for North Florida. Rodney Williams scored 15 points and had eight rebounds, and Austin Hollins added 12 points for the Gophers (8-1), winners of four straight. Minnesota outrebounded the Ospreys 48-35, including 25 offensive rebounds for the Gophers.

''We really struggled with their physicality,'' Driscoll said, later adding: ''Our room for error in playing these kinds of games is very small. But these guys know that. It isn't like this is the first time they've ever played a ranked team or whatever. It's not like this is new to us, and that's part that struggles for me as a coach because I believe we can win every single game.''

After hitting its first five attempts of the game, the Ospreys made just five shots on 23 shooting the rest of the first half as the Gophers forced tough looks and 11 North Florida turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Minnesota trailed 18-10 with 11:45 to play in the half, but followed with a 20-3 burst that included a 7 1/2-minute scoreless stretch for the Ospreys. Six of the eight field goals during the Gophers' run were layups or dunks.

''The thing that we struggle with is when a team raises its intensity to another level,'' Driscoll said. ''I don't know what their run was, but it seemed like we were stuck on 21 for six, seven minutes.''

Smith connected on just 6 of 19 attempts, including a 3-for-11 mark from the 3-point line.

The Gophers blocked a season-high 13 shots, including a career-high four from Andre Hollins and three from Mbakwe. Minnesota also tied a season high with 15 steals.

Minnesota scored 16 points off turnovers in the first half and used its size advantage to grab 14 offensive rebounds turned into 13 points. The Gophers finished with a season-high 25 offensive boards, ultimately outscoring North Florida 54-24 in the paint.

''We just don't see this kind of girth at our level,'' Driscoll said.

Tagged: Minnesota, Florida, North Florida, Trevor Mbakwe, Travis Wallace

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