Arizona State Drops Road Contest to Minnesota, 66-63

Dec. 2, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points to help Jim Molinari win his debut as Minnesota coach in the Gophers' 66-63 victory over Arizona State on Saturday.

Dan Coleman added 15 points for Minnesota (3-5), which snapped a five-game losing streak, but just barely, that ultimately cost head coach Dan Monson his job.

Jeff Pendergraph had 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead Arizona State (4-3), which nearly pulled out its second stunning comeback in a week.

The Gophers led by 19 with 7:38 to play, but had fits with the fullcourt press and went without a field goal over the final 5:22 to let Arizona State back in the game.

The Sun Devils scored 13 straight points to cut Minnesota's lead to 63-60 with 52 seconds to play, and Jerren Shipp hit a 3-pointer while falling to the ground with 25 seconds left that made it 65-63.

After Coleman made one free throw, Shipp's long 3-pointer from the top of the key was off the mark, snapping ASU's three-game win streak.

Molinari, who was named interim head coach on Thursday after Monson was forced to resign just seven games into his eighth season as Gophers coach, breathed a huge sigh of relief as the buzzer sounded.

Overmatched in recruiting and when it came to coaching on the court, Monson was unable to get the Gophers to rebound from a slew of severe NCAA restrictions brought on by an academic fraud scandal under former coach Clem Haskins.

So athletics director Joel Maturi turned to top assistant Molinari, the head coach at Bradley from 1991-2002, to try an salvage a season that is off to a disastrous start.

The Gophers were embarrassed at home by Division II Winona State in exhibition play and entered the day with the school's longest nonconference losing streak in more than 40 years. The five-game skid included defeats to Marist, Montana and Wednesday night's 90-68 loss to Clemson that ultimately sent Monson packing.

Molinari received a warm ovation from a sparse crowd upon being introduced before the game and a few signs read 'Let's Go Coach Mo' and 'Mo-Mentum.'

Molinari served as the 'defensive coordinator' for three years under Monson, and all five Gophers slapped the ground on defense throughout the second half, a gimmick Duke has used for years to signify defensive intensity.

They held Arizona State without a field goal for the first 5:28 of the period as the Sun Devils missed 14 of their first 17 shots.

McKenzie opened the second half with two 3-pointers and Jamal Abu-Shamala added another to give the Gophers a 41-31 lead less than 2 1/2 minutes into the second half.

Unlike their victory against Iowa a week ago, when they outscored the Hawkeyes 19-4 over the final six minutes and won on Christian Polk's 35-foot heave, the Sun Devils couldn't finish off another furious rally.

Polk scored 16 points on Saturday and Serge Angounou added seven points and 10 rebounds for Arizona State.

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