USA Today

Jordan Murphy led Minnesota to its first quality win of the season

The Gophers inch by a tough Clemson squad

The Clemson Tigers had height and athleticism that the Gophers really hadn't faced yet this season.  Even more worrying, Clemson shot the ball well out of the gate.  The Gophers were able to make a 9-0 run late in the first half to get within 1, but the Tigers followed with a quick 3 and a last second tip in as time expired that seemed to let all the air out of the balloon.  Shortly after, the crowd was reignited by a 3-point contest halftime show.  The fans were able to start the second half with a short memory and got back on their feet as a 2nd half opening 14-6 Gopher run gave the team back the lead (50-48).

At this point in the game Coach Pitino became very active with the crowd as you could see him on the sidelines rapidly raising his arms and clapping.  "Low-motor Murph," as Coach Pitino sometimes calls Jordan Murphy, was huge in the run converting an and-one dunk opportunity and a very nice baseline dribble drive dunk.  Murphy finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.  "He doesn't care what position he is playing, 3,4,5 he just wants to play," said Coach Pitino.  "I need to play him more."

One key adjustment at halftime may have been that the Gophers decided to switch all screens.  The Tigers still shot 14 for 28 from downtown, but it seemed to take the Clemson offense out of their rhythm just enough to roll these mini runs the Gophers put together.  In addition to switching screens, Murphy and Dorsey played a lot down the stretch and Pitino believes he can trust Dorsey more after his showing tonight.  It is a bit of a worry thinking of who exactly the Gophers 2nd primary ballhandler is on the team.  Dorsey has been eratic and McBrayer is more of a defensive stopper than anything else, but perhaps Dorsey can ride the groove he found tonight into some progression and maturity.

After the TV timeout under 4 minutes to play, Pitino went with Dorsey, Mason, Buggs, Murphy and King.  Joey King was effective playing against Nnoko and Djite in the last minutes.  Nnoko and Djite had advantage on King in height and weight, but he got a few key blocks that turned into points on the other end.  King may have gotten away with a couple of fouls allowing his arms to come down a bit, but good defense overall.  He said postgame that he believes his defensive awareness is coming along at the center position.

The Gophers finished the game much better at the free throw line than they did last Friday and that alone would have been enough of a crowd pleaser, but when Nate Mason was able to strip a Clemson guard of the ball and throw it ahead to a fastbreaking Charles Buggs for a hammering slam the lid on Williams Arena about blew off.  Dorsey scrambled out of the backcourt like Russel Wilson on a few possessions and that was that.  First quality win of the season and it gave Clemson 4 losses in a row in the Big 10 ACC Challenge.

There were many positive performances tonight.  Jordan Murphy garnered a lot of his teammates attention in the locker room after the game and his teammates all seem to be thinking the same thing-- 'what can I do to unlock this guy's potential'?  

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories