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Gophers take down Northern Illinois 77-56

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Winning streak reaches four with two non-con games remaining.

NCAA Basketball: New Jersey Tech at Minnesota
The Gophers made quick work of NIU Sunday at The Barn.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers increased their winning streak to four games and improved to 10-1 on the season with a 21-point victory over Northern Illinois on Sunday. Behind a full game from Reggie Lynch and a stifling defense, Minnesota led for nearly the entire game in a decisive 77-56 win over the Huskies.

With an awkward 4pm Sunday start time, the Gophers and Huskies both sleepwalked through much of the first half, playing some bad basketball and never getting into a rhythm. And the crowd reflected that energy too, which The Barn sounding like something of a cemetery for much of the game. In fact both teams we’re around the 30 percent mark, which reflected the ugly 29-23 halftime score.

Still, the Gophers found better success in the second half, utilizing a fully available Reggie Lynch, who stayed out of foul trouble and led all scorers with 18 points. And when NIU’s top scorer, 6-11 center Marin Maric, got into foul trouble in the second half it was all over for the Huskies.

Minnesota spread the scoring out once again, and five players reached double figures including Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Jordan Murphy, Akeem Springs and Lynch.

NIU, not known for their three-point shooting ability, was only 1-9 from deep and had difficulty scoring against what has been a vaunted Gopher defense so far this season. Both Murphy and Lynch nabbed double-doubles, while Lynch added three blocks.

Even more promising, the Gophers shot 83% from the free throw line and did an excellent job getting to the line, going 25-30 from the charity stripe.

Once again, Minnesota turned things up in the second half and leaned on their opponent, erasing what had been a struggle of a first half and using their size and strength to their advantage.

The Gophers face LIU-Brooklyn on Wednesday before wrapping the non-conference schedule up with a pesky Arkansas State squad on 12/23.

Notes:

  • It’s amazing how much of a game changer Lynch is when he’s on the court. I really can’t think of anything more important to the team this year than keeping him healthy and him staying out of foul trouble.
  • If you feel like the Gophers get to the line a lot, they do. In fact their free throw rate before the game was 29th in the nation. And if they can convert at a good clip, like tonight, they can add a bunch of points.
  • It was great to see Jordan Murphy do some damage. He scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards while staying out of foul trouble. He’s seemed lost at times during the season as he tries to carve out a role for himself now that Lynch is in town.