Minnesota defeated St. John’s 92-86 at Williams Arena. The Gophers overcame a 13 point first half deficit and shaky defense in the second half to get their fourth win of the season. Amir Coffey led all scorers with 30 points.
Coffey showed everyone why he is such a highly touted freshman. In addition to 30 points, he added four rebounds and an assist. Notably, he was nearly perfect from the line. In the first half, he almost single-handedly brought Minnesota back into the ballgame. The most noticeable aspect of his game is the smoothness of his play. Coffey looks relaxed at all times, and that poise will serve him particularly well as he develops at this level.
One particular action that I really liked was the choice to send Coffey to the block off a screen and then clear out the block. Coffey’s length makes him a mismatch against just about any guard, and the freshman has a solid post game and can easily generate his own shot.
Nate Mason played the last two minutes like a seasoned veteran. He finished with 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers on the night. Mason remains a clutch finisher, which will be an asset because the Gophers will likely find themselves in a lot of close games this year.
Reggie Lynch had nine blocks in this game. He also had 11 rebounds. Lynch’s shot selection is somewhat ambitious, and his offensive game needs work but he has the potential to be a defensive presence going forward. The main problem is his propensity to foul with the body. That will need to be cleaned up before better opposition exploits that weakness.
Dupree McBrayer was the most New York player on the court. The sophomore scored 18 points, most of which came on slashes to the basket and finishes through contact. His added strength is noticeable, and aided him on both the offensive and defensive sides of the court. To go along with his points, he also had five rebounds and five assists.
St. John’s stormed back (intentional pun is intentional) due to some ugly second half pick and roll defense from Minnesota. Guards were able to easily split Minnesota defenders to find easy looks in the paint or open threes on ball reversals. Some of the failure may have been due to a reticence to pick up fouls, but much of it was communication.
Interior foul trouble will be a story all year for the Gophers. Murphy fouled out and Lynch and Curry each had four fouls. Minnesota needs those three to avoid ticky tack fouls early on in the game because better opponents will follow St. John’s blueprint of driving hard to draw fouls.
Ahmad Gilbert had a productive eight minutes. There’s a place for him as a regular rotation player if he can improve his jumper to provide some offense when the starters rest.
Michael Hurt went beast mode after passing the ball to Reggie Lynch who was fouled on a dunk attempt. It might be the first time I’ve ever seen a player go nuts after a pass that didn’t result in any points.