MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -With chants of ``Tuh-BEE! Tuh-BEE!'' filling the student section, Tubby Smith's tenure at Minnesota got off to a rousing start.
Lawrence McKenzie scored 24 points and Dan Coleman added 17 to lead the Golden Gophers to a 94-68 exhibition victory over Minnesota State, Mankato on Thursday night in Smith's first game as coach since he left Kentucky for the Twin Cities.
Jake Morrow scored 22 points and Jadee Jones added 21 for Division II Minnesota State, Mankato, which started just one senior and is looking to replace Luke Anderson, who graduated last year as the school's career scoring leader.
Though he was considered to be on the hot seat at Kentucky, Smith's move from one of the premier programs in the country to reeling Minnesota was no less stunning.
He has been welcomed with open arms by a demoralized Gopher fan base that is starving for any semblance of credibility to be restored to a down trodden program.
Smith's name alone carries plenty of weight, and the Gophers are counting on his reputation to lure big time recruits to the Twin Cities, something Dan Monson was never able to do in seven rocky seasons at the helm.
Monson's recruiting failures coupled with NCAA sanctions following an academic fraud scandal under Clem Haskins to make things miserable in the once rockin' Barn.
Last year the Gophers went 9-22 and 3-13 in the Big Ten, the worst record in the school's 111-year history.
Athletic director Joel Maturi shelled out big bucks to lure Smith north, and though he has a lot of work to do, improvement could be seen in Smith's first game.
Last year, the Gophers lost at home to Division II Winona State in exhibition play, which foreshadowed an embarrassing season that saw the firing of Monson just seven games into the season.
In their first outing under Smith, the Gophers did what they were supposed to do - outclass an overmatched opponent.
There were shades of blue visible in the Gopher gold, with Minnesota running the fast break every chance it got, creating turnovers on defense and hitting open 3-pointers.
The Gophers led 19-5 with 12:25 to go in the first half, and the Mavericks never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
Jonathan Williams led the Gophers with 13 rebounds and the Gophers shot 54 percent from the field.
The Mavericks hit seven 3-pointers, but committed 19 turnovers, were outrebounded 42-32 and shot just 37 percent.
Still stinging from years of failure under Monson, Williams Arena was only a little over half full for this one.
Judging by the missed jumpers, the careless alley-oop passes and the overall lack of athleticism on display on Thursday night, Gopher fans will have to be a little patient with new regime.

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