The Gophers won for the third time in three tries this season defeating the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers out of the NEC 80-56 at Williams Arena on Wednesday night.
Play initially started at a sluggish pace as both teams struggled to find their footing early on. Eventually, Minnesota asserted themselves with some dribble penetration in transition and built an early double digit lead. Reggie Lynch made some smart plays out of the post that contributed to the early advantage. The Gophers and Mountaineers proceeded to put on an ugly display of basketball during the middle part of the half, with both teams committing several turnovers. On the defensive side, both squads implemented full court pressure with varying amounts of intensity. The Gophers fell back into a half court zone which forced the Mount to be perimeter oriented.
By the 8:16 mark in the first half, Mount St. Mary’s had cut the Minnesota advantage to a single point, 17-16, due to the Gophers’ inability to make free throws and a generally stagnate offense. The Mountaineers continued to keep it close even with the Gophers getting to the line 19 times in the first half by making 5 3-pointers, albeit on 19 attempts. The Gopher size advantage was obvious but their inability to knock down open three-point attempts off of good inside-out play (1-9 from deep) didn’t allow them to build a large advantage. However, Dupree McBrayer was 3-3 from the field for 9 points, including the team’s only successful first half three-point attempt to keep the visitors at bay. The home team entered the break with an 8-point advantage, 37-29. Minnesota had committed nine turnovers before the half was over, which limited their ability to increase their advantage to a more suitable amount.
The second half started with some smart plays from the Gophers on offense, but an inability to keep Mountaineers in front of them on defense. Just four minutes and thirty seconds into the second half, Minnesota had accumulated five team fouls and held a ten point lead, 47-37.
While the Mount continued to hit the occasional three-point attempt via the diminutive and appropriately named 5’5” point guard Junior Robinson, Murphy and Lynch found a nice one-two game from the post that resulted in two consecutive Murphy dunks. Unfortunately, the fouls had begun to accumulate for the Gophers, enabling Mount St. Mary’s to reach the bonus just seven and half minutes into the second half.
Akeem Springs sprung to life at about the mid-way point in the half, hitting three-pointers on two consecutive possessions to extend the Gophers lead to twenty points, 61-41. Eventually, the Gopher defense began to impose their will on the over matched NEC squad by forcing drives into the likes of Lynch, Murphy, and Eric Curry. Minnesota completely dominated the boards during this period of the game, allowing their lead to balloon to 76-51 with 3:13 remaining in the contest.
Shortly after, the human victory cigar Gaston Diedhiou had made it on to the court and even hit a baseline jumper and a win was all but ensured for the Golden Gophers. The final tally settled in the favor of Minnesota, 80-56.
- Dupree McBrayer has definitely improved his decision-making and shot-making ability in between his freshman and sophomore years. While the shot itself is still questionable looking, he connected from the field in a variety of ways including from three-point land, a cross over step back jumper, a break away dunk under pressure, and successful attempts at the free throw line. He finished a perfect 5-5 from the field for 13 points and added three assists. Great game for Dupree.
- Nate Mason was really forcing offense in the first half, often trying to run out with no advantage in numbers, only to pull up and brick a jumper. He also had three turnovers in the first half. He found better spots to shoot from in the second half but he has to realize that the surrounding talent on this team is much higher than last year and forcing the issue benefits no one.
- Amir Coffey had more smooth passing during the run of play but the outside shot still looked questionable. He had some excellent finished at the rim in transition though and continues to show signs of promise.
- Reggie Lynch had some smart plays out of the post, including passing when he felt a scoring opportunity wasn’t available. However, he once again found himself in foul trouble which limited his ability to truly pack the box score in his favor.
- Eric Curry continues to impress me with his aggressiveness on the glass, although his ability to have another quality game was hindered by picking up two early fouls in the first half and a third very early in the second half.
- Jordan Murphy looked more like his freshman self, with additional strength, finishing with both power and finesse around the basket, depending on what the situation called for. He laid in some soft ones, threw down a dunk over an unsuspecting victim again and went hard after several rebounds. He was an absolute beast in the second half on the offensive boards and finished with 18 points (8-9 from the field) and 12 rebounds.
- Overall, the team is still prone to some foolish turnovers but it is promising to see them continue to get the line at an extremely high rate. If they are able to increase their conversion rate from the line (they were only 14-23 from the line tonight), they will see their offense become more efficient and effective.