The Minnesota Golden Gophers extended their winning streak to four games Wednesday after a 75-74 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. Nate Mason led the way with 30 points and Amir Coffey added 17 points (all in the second half). A last second follow-up by Akeem Springs propelled the Gophers to a victory. Minnesota has now improved their Big Ten record to 7-6, drastically enhancing their NCAA tournament chances.
It was a sloppy start for the Gophers, who shot just 1-for-8 (13%) from the floor at the first TV timeout. Akeem Springs was 0-for-4 from the field and Nate Mason was keeping the Gophers in the game, scoring six of the first ten Minnesota points. It didn’t get much better as the half progressed and the Gophers trailed by as many as ten points. Minnesota was playing very fast and wasn’t taking care of the basketball. Indiana had frequent offensive rebounding spells and it led to more opportunities for the Hoosiers to score. At the eight-minute mark of the first half, the Gophers were shooting 3-for-18 from the field and had seven total turnovers. Indiana was on a 12-0 run that stretched over three minutes and Minnesota went 4:45 without scoring until Reggie Lynch finished at the rim.
The Gophers finally awoke after several tough finishes around the rim by Reggie Lynch and an acrobatic Nate Mason layup. Minnesota trailed by just four with 3:39 left in the first half. A long three-pointer by Nate Mason and a tough offensive board and putback by Jordan Murphy pulled the Gophers within one point. Minnesota went on a 13-3 run to end the half and entered the locker room with a 33-29 lead. They led by four points, despite receiving a combined zero points from Amir Coffey and Akeem Springs.
A 9-0 run sparked by a Juwan Morgan three-pointer put the Hoosiers on top, 51-49, with 10:07 left in the second half. Moments later, a tough piece of defense by Eric Curry led to a steal and easy Nate Mason layup to knot the game at 53. Indiana would take a five-point lead after Akeem Springs got lost hedging a screen with Reggie Lynch and James Blackmon Jr. drilled a three-pointer with 4:03 left to play.
Resiliency in the end
In the final sequence, Eric Curry picked up a steal in the corner, Nate Mason pushed it ahead in transition, and a lose ball foul on the offensive glass sent Jordan Murphy to the line for two free throws. He hit them both and the Gophers led 71-70 with under a minute left. A jumper by Thomas Bryant put the Hoosiers up by one point, but a Nate Mason layup gave Minnesota a 73-72 advantage. Bryant was fouled on the next possession and hit two free throws, but a follow-up by Akeem Springs off his own miss gave the Gophers a 75-74 lead with 3.2 seconds left. Indiana couldn’t get a good look off the in-bound and the Gophers won 75-74.
Nate Mason is on fire
There were patches this season where point guard Nate Mason really struggled to produce on a consistent basis. Wednesday night was a different story. Mason was finishing strong at the rim and drilled several key three-pointers, which fueled his 18 first half points. When he can consistently score and attack off the dribble, the Gophers are a more dynamic threat on offense. Mason took more quality shots and didn’t force opportunities that weren’t there. He played like an experienced point guard and put the entire team on his back. His scoring surge single-handedly kept the Gophers within striking distance. In the second half, he beautifully dropped a pass to Amir Coffey in transition and shook a defender off the dribble to finish strong at the rim. He hit a clutch layup with under a minute remaining, which helped fuel the Gophers to a victory. He had 30 points and four assists, making up for the four-point output from Akeem Springs.
Reggie Lynch protecting the rim early on defense
Indiana was really attacking the rim early in the game, but Reggie Lynch was picking up blocked shots and protecting the paint. Over the last three games, he has been doing a great job of rotating on defense and causing disruptions. Where Lynch had trouble was on the glass. He had great position, but Indiana had five offensive boards early in the game. It allowed the Hoosiers to keep possessions alive, leading to second chance points. However, Lynch’s tough finishes around the rim and timely defense was a key to Minnesota’s late first half surge. In the second half, Lynch got into foul trouble and had to exit after he fouled out. This has been a problem all year, but the Gophers were able overcome it.
Minnesota held Indiana star big-man Thomas Bryant to zero points with 12:44 left. Entering the game, Bryant was averaging 14.9 points per game and both Reggie Lynch/Bakary Konate did a great job of walling up on him. Bryant had just 8 points in the game and it was a huge difference-maker for the Gophers. In addition, Jordan Murphy was a rebounding machine. He had 14 points and 15 rebounds in 33 minutes and continues to be active on both ends of the floor. His play over the last few games has been a huge lift to the entire team.
Dupree McBrayer is struggling, Springs stone cold
It seems like Dupree McBrayer’s performance has been declining every game. He has displayed poor shot selection and has been trying to drive hard to the rim when opportunities aren’t available. He is trying to attack too much and is forcing the basketball into tight windows. McBrayer hasn’t been playing within his role and it has progressively gotten worse over the last few games. He needs to start playing like he did early in the season to provide more depth at guard for the Gophers.
Normally it takes ten gallons of water to put out the Akeem Springs fire, but tonight, he was frozen in the first half. He went 0-for-7 from the floor and couldn’t hit any shots. He missed all three of his first half three-pointers and several of his shots around the rim wouldn’t fall. However, Nate Mason picked up the scoring slack for the Gophers with both Springs and Amir Coffey tallying zero points in the first half. However, Coffey had 17 second half points and Springs had the biggest shot of the game as he made the follow-up to his own miss with seconds left to propel the Gophers to victory. Springs kept battling and made the big shot when it mattered most, despite going 2-for-13 from the floor in the game.
The Gophers will host the Michigan Wolverines at Williams Arena on Sunday with the tip slated for 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball