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Rapid Reaction: Gophers Tame Salukis 57-45

Minnesota overcomes slow start to secure sixth straight victory

NCAA Basketball: Southern Illinois at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t the prettiest game of the year but the Gophers did what they needed to against Southern Illinois to get the victory and continue their unbeaten start to the season, downing the Salukis 57-45. Coming off a confidence-boosting, double digit win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, a potential letdown was a possibility for the upstart Gophers as they found their footing in the new season. And after passing several early season tests, keeping up the energy against a relatively lackluster opponent after a big victory was yet a new one.

That narrative played out early on as Minnesota struggled to keep up the intensity from the start and the Salukis jumped up out a small lead early on 18-14. But with a 15-2 run to close out the first half and an 8-0 run midway through the second, the Gophers slowly but surely extended their lead throughout the game and into double digits before SIU knew what hit them.

The Gophers were without Reggie Lynch in this one, with Pitino electing to give the big man a rest in anticipation of needing his full complement of weapons against Florida State. Bakary Konate and Eric Curry worked to fill that void while Jordan Murphy did most of the rest up front. Curry ended up with six points and 10 boards while Murphy pitched in nine points and seven rebounds.

Amir Coffey once again was the story of the game, leading the team with 13 points en route to his sixth straight double digit performance this season.

The Salukis never looked settled and went on several minutes-long scoring droughts throughout the game. Unable to get anything going from deep, they went a paltry 2-17 from long range and shot just 31% from the field. And with five players averaging more than 9 points per game, only one player made it into double digits. Minnesota did a good job of keeping them off the free throw line, committing only nine fouls the entire game.

The Gophers face by far their toughest test of the season on Monday when they travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. FSU is #25 in the nation and one of the tallest teams out there. Combine that with it being the first time Minnesota will be playing away from home and things will get pretty dicey.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Can you believe it? One year after winning just eight total games, we might actually see the Gophers get some votes when the polls come out in a few days week. Not that it means anything concrete, but it’s certainly validating, especially considering how big of a turnaround that represents.
  • It’s time to officially sound the alarm on free throws. Days after shooting 72% from the line, the Gophers went a pathetic 12-22 against SIU. It hasn’t been a factor quite yet, but imagine leaving 10 points on the floor in a super tight game. That’ll happen sooner or later and it’s not going to be pretty.