Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press
The Minnesota Golden Gophers traveled to Rutgers fresh off a thrilling double overtime win against Iowa on Wednesday night. They managed the fatigue associated with a quick turnaround and rolled past Rutgers for a 72-63 win. Jordan Murphy led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Nate Mason added 16 points and Minnesota managed to hold on in a game where they held a double-digit lead. They squandered similar opportunities earlier in the season against Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland. Saturday was a different story as the Gophers dominated Rutgers down low to pick up a much-needed road win.
Minnesota started the game with great ball movement in the half court offense. Minnesota went on a 7-0 run over 1:21, fueled by a Jordan Murphy three-point play under the rim. The early 9-2 lead wouldn’t last long as the Gophers let Rutgers get out in transition off a turnover and several poor looks at the rim. The Scarlet Knights put together a 7-0 run of their own to knot the game at nine near the 17-minute mark. The Gophers had several small miscues, including not getting back on defense, saving a ball under their own basket, and wasting a possession as the shot clock ran down. Rutgers took a 14-13 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half. Minnesota managed to climb back as Nate Mason attacked off the dribble and dropped a beautiful bounce pass to Eric Curry as the defense collapsed. Curry slammed it down and the Gophers went back on top by 4 points with nine minutes left in the first half. A Jordan Murphy dunk and tip-in extended Minnesota’s lead to nine points with under three minutes left in the first half. The Gophers never looked back, entering the break leading Rutgers 43-34.
Out of halftime, Nate Mason hit back-to-back three-pointers and the Gophers extended their advantage to 11 points. Minnesota went 3:31 without a field goal and it allowed Rutgers to go on a quick 6-0 run to pull the Scarlet Knights within six points. It was as close as Rutgers would get as a Bakary Konate three-point-play and a tough jumper by Dupree McBrayer put the Gophers up by 11 with under 10 minutes to play. Rutgers went on one last run, but a tough layup by Nate Mason and shutdown defense by Amir Coffey prevented Rutgers from pulling off a comeback. The Scarlet Knights missed some costly free throws and Minnesota made them down the stretch, which was a key difference-maker.
Shot selection trouble, early fouls
The Minnesota offense has the tendency to waste possessions during certain portions of the game. Dupree McBrayer and Nate Mason took difficult contested shots early in the shot clock and it allowed Rutgers to get out on run in the first half. Dupree McBrayer particularly took forced shots fat too much in this game. Jordan Murphy also shot two three-pointers and needs to continue staying under the rim like he has been. Minnesota’s offense is best when there are several ball reversals and strong attacks to open up looks behind the arch/down low. The first three possessions of the game were proof of how different the offense is when they reverse the ball and attack off the dribble. The Gophers need to get the ball in Amir Coffey’s hands more frequently. When he creates off the dribble and can attack the rim, he is lethal. It also makes Coffey more of a threat as a passer. He had one moment in the game where he beautifully found Nate Mason in the corner off of an attack. It’s all about getting the ball in Coffey’s hands as much as possible.
In addition to the shot selection trouble, the Gophers allowed Rutgers to stay in the game when they had a sequence of reaching fouls and a failed save attempt under their own basket. Not to mention, they were a step slow getting back on defense and it allowed Rutgers to pick up easy baskets in transition. The Gophers started to move their feet on defense late in the first half and it prevented them from picking up bad fouls. Reggie Lynch had two quick fouls by the 12-minute mark of the first half. By the midway point of the half, Minnesota had eight total team fouls. They clamped down on defense and their rotations improved as the game progressed. Reggie Lynch had a huge rotation at the end of the game as a help-side defender, forcing an errant shot down low.
Gophers dominate Rutgers down low
The Gophers dominated Rutgers down low in nearly every facet. They out-rebounded Rutgers 22-to-12 on the glass in the first half, including 10-to-4 on offensive boards. The Gophers had 20 total second-chance points in this game and it was the difference. In addition, 34 of Minnesota’s 43 first half points came inside the paint. They attacked the offensive glass, beat Rutgers off the dribble, and created easy baskets around the rim. Jordan Murphy again played within his role and executed his style of basketball. He was picking up tough rebounds and put-backs around the rim. He also started his post moves closer to the block, which allowed him to finish strong at the basket. Murphy also had a huge dunk over a defender and again brought energy and determination on both sides of the ball. Murphy finished the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. In two games this week, Murphy is averaging 21 points per game and 15 rebounds, which has provided a huge boost for the Gophers.
Eric Curry also quietly provided a spark off the bench, scoring 11 points. He was very efficient, shooting 5-for-5 from the field, adding six rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot in 19 minutes. He brought fresh legs off the bench and created timely offense for the Gophers. If the Gophers can get consistent low-post play from Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch, and Eric Curry, they are going to continue being a tough matchup threat for teams. Murphy’s latest surge could be a huge difference-maker down the stretch for this team.
The Gophers will host the Indiana Hoosiers Wednesday night at Williams Arena. Tip is slated for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball