Minnesota 89, N. Illinois 48

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

Blake Hoffarber set a school record with eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points to lift Minnesota to an 89-48 victory over Northern Illinois on Tuesday night.

Hoffarber hit four in a row from long range to help the Gophers (8-3) take control in the first half. He added two more after leaving briefly with an injured left ankle early in the second half. He was 9-for-11 overall and added six rebounds and four assists.

Xavier Silas scored nine points for Northern Illinois (1-6), which has lost four in a row. Silas made four of his 15 shots in his return from a five-game absence because of a broken right hand.

The Huskies turned the ball over 21 times and shot just 32 percent from the field in their first game since Dec. 2. They were only 2-for-20 in 3-pointers while the Gophers were 11-for-20 from behind the arc.

Ralph Sampson III had 14 points and three blocks and Lawrence Westbrook scored 15 for Minnesota, which has won four in a row after a three-game losing streak.

None of those victories, however, will impress the selection committee come NCAA tournament time. After losing to Portland, Texas A&M and Miami, the Gophers have returned home to blow out Brown, Morgan State, St. Joseph's and Northern Illinois.

Hoffarber's silky smooth left-handed stroke turned this one into a rout in a hurry. He made his first 3-pointer less than 4 minutes into the game, then stepped back from the top of the key for an NBA-range 3 on the next possession.

They just kept coming.

Hoffarber swished one from even deeper on the next possession, then came off a screen and drilling his fourth 3-pointer in a row to give Minnesota an 18-8 lead with 13:33 to play in the first half.

Hoffarber's marksmanship, however, did little to sway coach Tubby Smith's rigid substitution schedule. Northern Illinois called a timeout after the fourth 3 and Smith pulled all of his starters for the second unit.

Spending about five minutes of game time on the bench didn't cool Hoffarber down. He made his fifth 3-pointer of the period when he was reinserted.

Shortly afterward, Hoffarber got a pass behind the halfcourt line as the Gophers worked the ball up the floor. The crowd hollered ``Shoooot!''

Tempted as he may have been, Hoffarber declined.

Hoffarber tied the school record, shared by Terrence Simmons, Lawrence McKenzie and Devoe Joseph, with 11 minutes to go in the game. Shortly after the achievement was announced with 3 minutes to play, Smith put Hoffarber back in the game to try to break it.

He did just that with 1:28 to play, getting a standing ovation from the crowd and a big hug from teammate Paul Carter after swishing the big one from the top of the key.

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