The Minnesota Golden Gophers thrashed the Arkansas Razorbacks 85-71 at Williams Arena on Tuesday night. While Coach Mike Anderson’s crew enjoys an up-tempo attack with full court pressure and forcing turnovers, this was their undoing throughout the game. The disjointed Razorbacks committed 21 turnovers on the night.
The first half saw the visitors pull ahead by three in the opening seven minutes of the game, where the teams only combine for 17 total points, 10-7. The game lacked flow and neither team had many field goal attempts, let alone conversions. However, the Gophers were able to keep a manageable margin by locking down the three-point line and avoiding turnovers.
After Dupree McBrayer hit the game’s first three-pointer at 10:58 left in the first half, the Gophers proceeded to change the projection of the contest. A barrage of three-pointers from Nate Mason and Akeem Springs created a favorable buffer for the Gophers by the 1:11 mark in the first half, 41-21. Arkansas was not really able to utilize their signature full court pressure in the first half due to foul trouble to several players.
Dupree McBrayer picked up his fourth foul at 19:17 left in the second half. But the Razorbacks didn’t capitalize on this, not hitting their first three-pointer until there was only 3:58 left in the game. This, along with a failure to produce turnovers at their usual rate never allowed them to cut the Minnesota lead to less than ten in the second half. At times during the proceedings, the Gophers appeared happy passing around the top of the key, waiting for the shot clock to wind down. They also were able to get some easy looks off of a smart high-low game when Arkansas was over-committing looking for turnovers.
Aided by a freshman Amir Coffey scoring in a myriad of ways in a spectacularly efficient second half (7-9 from the field for 19 points after going scoreless in the first half), the outcome was never in doubt. It appeared that Minnesota coasted through much of the second half but by knocking down free throws at a decent clip (72%) and getting good looks on offense, the Gophers were able to secure their fifth victory in as many tries in front of their home fans.
Minnesota has a very balanced scoring attack throughout their top 7 players. They had a 17-point lead at halftime without a single first half point from Amir Coffey, who had scored 30 points last game against St. John’s and without much contribution in the scoring tally form McBrayer, who struggled with foul trouble.
Reggie Lynch was excellent in the first half and finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He didn’t do much in the second half, but this was well after his efforts in the first had all but guaranteed victory.
The Gophers shot 9-15 from three-point land. While this efficiency can’t be expected every night, the combination of Mason, Springs, Coffey, and Gilbert do present a much more formidable outside attack compared to previous iterations of Pitino’s Gophers.
Eric Curry continues to perform well under the radar collecting 12 points (8-8 from the free throw line, woot woot!), 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist. He is an excellent player to have come off the bench.