Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Jordan Murphy and the Big Ten team went 3-0 in pool play on Friday and Saturday at the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championships at the Mall of America. The Big Ten won Pool F and advanced to the single elimination Round of 16 on Sunday where they will play the Mid-American Conference.
Murphy is one of four members on the Big Ten team that also includes Ethan Happ from Wisconsin, Juwan Morgan from Indiana and Glynn Watson Jr. from Nebraska. Other notable players in the tournament include NCAA DI career three pointer record holder Fletcher Magee of Wofford, and Justin Wright-Foreman of Hofstra. Games are played up to 21 points or whomever has the highest score in ten minutes. You get one point for any shot inside the arc, and two points for any shot beyond.
The Big Ten got off to a good start in their first game Friday night against the Ivy League. They had the loudest fans by far rooting them on with nearly even levels of cheers for both Murphy and Happ. The Big Ten picked up a 21-11 win with Murphy and Happ leading the way with seven points each. Murphy was an efficient 6-9 from the field, added seven rebounds and brought the house down with a huge block and thunderous slam dunk.
The Big Ten team would take on the Horizon League in their second pool play game on Saturday morning. It would be the Glynn Watson show for the B1G team. Watson scored the first four points for the Big Ten to give them a quick 4-1 lead. But the Horizon team suddenly found their shot with Green Bay’s Sandy Cohen hitting back to back twos to tie the game at 6. The Horizon would actually take an 11-8 lead on a pair of Josh McFolley twos, but Murphy once again threw down a monster dunk to cut the lead to two. Watson then took over again scoring seven of the Big Ten’s final 10 points including the two point bomb to finish the game with a 21-12 final.
Watson finished with 11 points to lead the team while Happ added six points. Murphy ended up with two points on two dunks and added four offensive rebounds and three assists to the cause.
The final pool play game Saturday afternoon saw the Big Ten playing the Big Sky Conference. It was the most physical game of the three for the Big Ten team. The Big Sky did not appear afraid to let Murphy and Happ bang with them down low and it showed as it was the lowest scoring game of the weekend thus far.
The physicalness seemed to catch the Big Ten by surprise as the Big Sky jumped out to a 2-0 and then a 5-4 lead before the talent advantage took over. Murphy hit a couple of free throws after getting hammered going to the hole and threw down another thunderous dunk to help the Big Ten jump out to a 13-5 lead.
But the Big Sky would not give in. They cut a 15-8 lead to 15-13 with about two minutes to play. Happ and Murphy both went cold and could not buy a bucket during this stretch. The Big Sky had three two point opportunities to try and tie the game in the last minute but could not hit, and Murphy brought the game to a two possession lead with a lay-up with just about thirty seconds left. After one more missed two from the Big Sky they decided to try something the rest of the Big Ten had done to success—-Hack a Happ. But Ethan would have the last laugh hitting both with 14.4 seconds left to ice a 18-13 hard fought win and a perfect 3-0 pool record.
Once again the Big Ten spread the scoring around with Morgan leading the team with seven points. Murphy added five to bring his three game total up to 14 points.
The Big Ten won Pool F and will face the runner up of Pool E in the Round of 16 on Sunday morning. That will be the MAC team. It will be a very interesting game between two very opposite teams. The Big Ten is led by three stud forwards and one good guard. It has shown as they scored 13 of their 21 points in the paint in games one and two, but that fell to just seven in game three as the Big Sky had to bodies to get physical.
The MAC team is very guard heavy. Their team has four solid scorers who can all hit from behind the arc in Jaelan Sanford from Toledo, Jaylin Walker from Kent State, Larry Austin from Central Michigan and Tayler Persons from Ball State. They will try and penetrate on the bigger defenders and kick for two point shots, while the Big Ten team will most likely look inside to Happ and Murphy to take advantage of their significant size advantage. That game should start at 11:10 Sunday morning.
If the Big Ten can win that game two other very talented teams stand in their way between the title and the $100,000 prize. A potential semifinal opponent could be the team from the CAA. They went 3-0 in pool play and is led by Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman. JWF was the second leading scorer in the nation in 2018-19 averaging 27 points per game. He was deadly in their games this weekend earning the attention of NBA scouts in attendance with plays like these:
A potential championship team opponent cold be the ACC team. They also opened up 3-0 and looked really good doing it with duel inside/outside game play from Clemson’s Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas, Miami’s Anthony Lawrence and Pittsburgh’s Jared Wilson-Frame.
Keep stacking .@WilsonFrame & @accmbb squad close our pool play with 22-5 win over MEAC @3X3UHoops.— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) April 6, 2019
JWF averaged 7.7 ppg., while shooting 72.2 pct from the field in pool play pic.twitter.com/hFraGYOHzS
There have been a lot of famous names watching the games so far this weekend. Former Nebraska coach Tim Miles was watching his former player in Watson and the Big Ten team on Friday night.
Saturday a much more familiar face made a stop out to the Mall of America:
Just finished up @mallofamerica to watch @jordanmurphy24 in the @3X3UHoops. Must say, really cool event and amazing venue! Now off to @usbankstadium to watch some great hoops. Love seeing the Twin Cities shine on the national stage! #finalfour2019— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) April 6, 2019
Well known teammates also made a stop out as Ethan Happ had his fellow Badger Nate Reuvers stop out for a bit on Saturday:
Murphy also had a cheering section Friday night—not from his teammates but from Gopher women’s basketball players Destiny Pitts, Taiye and Kehinde Bello and Irene Garrido Perez.
It should be a packed house on Sunday as sixteen teams all try and via for the big bag on money at the end. The full Sunday schedule is below. The Round of 16 and Quarterfinals all are streamed on twitter at @3x3uHoops and the semifinals and Championship and third place games will air live on ESPN beginning at 2PM.
Check out some additional photos from Friday and Saturday below: