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Updated: November 12th, 2012 9:16pm
Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins help Gophers cruise past Toledo

Rodney Williams, Austin Hollins help Gophers cruise past Toledo

by The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rodney Williams had 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals, Austin Hollins scored 10 of his 13 points in the game's first five minutes and the Minnesota Gophers cruised to an 82-56 victory in a nonconference men's basketball game Monday night at Williams Arena.

Joe Coleman finished with 15 points and six rebounds despite eight turnovers, and Oto Osenieks pitched in eight points off the bench for the Gophers (2-0), who played so sharply and confidently in the first half their occasional sloppiness down the stretch didn't matter.

Rian Pearson led the Rockets (0-2) with 18 points, and freshman center Nathan Boothe added 13 points and seven rebounds.

Toledo went just 3 for 19 from three-point range against an active, hustling Gophers defense. The Rockets were second in the Mid-American Conference in three-point shooting last season and made nearly 44 percent from behind the arc over the past 12 games.

The Gophers held American to 36 points on 9-for-38 shooting (23.7 percent) in the opener last week. Toledo finished at 31.1 percent from the field.

These Gophers, arguably coach Tubby Smith's deepest and most-athletic team here, are raring to go, looking for the fast break as often as possible. The 51-27 rebounding advantage they owned on Monday sure helped the transition game, too.

The Gophers are 43-1 in nonconference games at home in six seasons under Smith, losing only to Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge two years ago. The Gophers raised their record to 21-2 against MAC teams, last losing to Ball State in 1988.

The last time these teams played was 1989, an 85-70 victory by the Gophers at Toledo. The Rockets beat the Gophers, 83-75, here in 1987, early in Clem Haskins' second season as coach at Minnesota.

This game was never close.

Hollins hit two three-pointers and made all four of his shots in those defining first five minutes, and the Gophers took a 15-2 lead. Only once in the first half did Toledo score four consecutive points.

The Gophers built a 64-32 lead in the second half before Pearson started to find some space to get to the basket, and the Rockets took advantage of some too-casual passes by the Gophers.

After going from 4-28 in 2010-11 to 19-17 in 2011-12, the second-biggest turnaround in the nation, the Rockets, with all but one letter-winner back, were picked by media covering the conference to win the MAC's West Division. The Rockets haven't made the NCAA tournament since 1980.

The Rockets lost their opener to Loyola in Chicago and play again on the road Wednesday at Northern Iowa. Pearson, the only player who ranked in the MAC's top 10 in points, rebounds and steals in 2011-12, finished 7-for-17 from the field but 3-for-8 from the foul line. Julius Brown, the MAC Freshman of the Year last season, had nine points on 3-for-13 shooting, plus seven assists and seven turnovers.

Toledo is 27-44 all-time against the Big Ten. The last victory by the Rockets over a Big Ten team was on Dec. 30, 2002, an 81-76 decision against Michigan State.

© The Associated Press