Minnesota 70, La Salle 61

Rodney Williams tied his career high with 21 points, Austin

Hollins had 16 and Minnesota beat La Salle 70-61 Wednesday night in

the opening round of the NIT.

Andre Hollins added 13 points for the Golden Gophers (20-14),

who play Miami in the second round after the Hurricanes beat

Valparaiso 66-50.

”I am impressed,” Smith said of his young team. ”All year

long, we’ve been in every game. Overall, we’ve been right there.

Now, we’re starting to make some of these steps.”

The Gophers closed with a 15-6 run to give coach Tubby Smith his

100th win at the school. Only seven coaches in the program’s

history have won at least 100 games.

”I really didn’t realize it,” Smith said of the milestone.

”You’re so involved in the game.”

Earl Pettis scored 19 points for La Salle (21-13), while Ramon

Galloway added 13 and Jerrell Wright 12.

It was the first postseason game for the Explorers since they

qualified for the NCAA tournament in 1992. La Salle’s 21 wins are

the most for the program since a 30-2 finish in 1990.

”I love my kids,” coach John Giannini said. ”They did a lot

of good things this year. We just had some bad performances and it

was the wrong time to do it.”

This was the 14th appearance for Minnesota in the NIT, including

championships in 1993 and `98 – but the `98 title has since been