Richard Pitino didn’t seem too sentimental about returning to his alma mater. Conversely, he was nervous about the team that awaited his Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
The Providence Friars, like No. 15 Minnesota, lost in their first NCAA Tournament game a year ago, were returning the majority of their roster and had top-25 aspirations. This was a quality foe on a national TV stage.
And the Gophers showed up.
Minnesota (2-0) started strong and ended stronger, beating the Friars 86-74 on Monday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Jordan Murphy delivered his second straight monster game with 23 points and 14 rebounds, Amir Coffey scored 13 points in the second half and Isaiah Washington gave the Gophers valuable minutes off the bench. Minnesota scored 50 points in the second half, at one point converting on 12 straight trips down the floor.
The Gophers trailed 46-40 in the second half before turning it on, going on a 36-18 run that featured 13 points by Murphy and three Coffey 3-pointers. Coffey scored just two points in the first half.
For Murphy, his 23rd career double-double came on the heels of a career game three nights prior against USC Upstate, where he notched 35 points, 15 rebounds. But Monday’s effort was certainly more eye-opening against the physical Friars, who made life hard on Minnesota’s other bigs. Reggie Lynch, Bakary Konate and Davonte Fitzgerald all got in foul trouble as the Friars took a 39-36 halftime lead and extended the advantage early in the second.
Murphy was the stabilizer, however. He blocked three shots and added two assists on top of his double-double. He was 10 of 15 shooting, with most of his points coming in the paint on drives to the rim or dunks underneath. The junior’s ball-handling appears to be a great area of improvement.
Senior Nate Mason helped the cause, too, with 17 points and six rebounds while the freshman Washington scored all eight of his points in the first half. Lynch also contributed 12 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting night.
Minnesota started out hot with a 12-2 lead at the first media timeout, but the Friars closed the gap quickly and took the lead at 36-33 on Isaiah Jackson’s 3-pointer with under two minutes remaining in the first half.
Kyron Cartwright led Providence (1-1) with 12 points. Kalif Young had 11, and Rodney Bullock, Nate Watson and Jackson all scored 10.
Stats to Think About
- The Gophers shot 50.8 percent for the game. They only shot 50 percent or better six times last year.
- The Gophers won the rebounding battle 38-31, in large part because of their guards. Mason and Washington combined for 10 rebounds.
- Fitzgerald and Konate combined for eight fouls and zero points. That’s tough to do.
The Gophers host Niagara on Wednesday night at Williams Arena. First tip at 7 p.m.
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