Treyton Thompson Makes Case For Larger Role; Ben Johnson Unsure

PHOTO: JERRY HOLT - STAR TRIBUNE

The depth-challenged Minnesota Gophers were without two regulars (Eric Curry, Sean Sutherland) in their 7-man rotation on Sunday afternoon against the Iowa Hawkeyes. With just under 11 minutes left in regulation, the now depth-challenged and undermanned Gophers were trailing 64-42 and looked completely outmatched vs the Hawkeyes.

That’s when 7’0″, 210 lb true freshman (from Alexandria, MN), Treyton Thompson, entered the game for the first time and, non-coincidentally, when everything changed. Minnesota went on a 22-6 run and cut the lead to three points with 1:30 remaining after a deep three by Jamison Battle.

But it was Thompson’s size and athleticism down low that kept one big possession alive and gave the Gophers a presence down low during their run that was desperately lacking through the first three quarters. Treyton finished with 8 points and had two rebounds but Minnesota couldn’t complete the comeback, eventually falling 81-71.

Thompson Exactly What Gophers Need

Treyton Thompson, if ready to emerge as a lineup regular, is the exact player the 10-5 (1-5) Gophers desperately need. Peyton Willis and Jamison Battle are one of the best guard/wing combos in the conference and EJ Stephens will make opponents pay if they focus too much attention on Willis and Battle. But Minnesota’s been unable to find post options, outside of Eric Curry, who can bang down low vs the monster big men of the Big Ten.

So with Curry out, the Hawkeyes had their way with post cuts and dribble drives during much of Sunday’s contest. But with 12 minutes to play, Ben Johnson went to a zone defense that, with Thompson patrolling the paint, forced Iowa to make shots from deep. It worked. Iowa shot 5/22 from 3-point range on the afternoon and 1/9 during the Gophers’ comeback.

On the offensive end, Treyton Thompson worked the double screen and roll game with Battle and Willis. His presence opened shot opportunities for those two that they hadn’t seen all night. Jamison Battle, especially, took advantage and hit huge shots down the stretch.

Ben Johnson Still Hesitant

After the game, head coach Ben Johnson praised the attitude and work ethic of Thompson. But he still appeared hesitant on whether or not Thompson is physically ready to play center in the Big Ten. And if not, can he stay in front of the talented wings or guards he may end up on if he plays any other positions. But with the deficiencies the Minnesota Gophers have in the post, Johnson may not have a choice but to throw Treyton into the Big Ten fire.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan