Frontcourt Dominate, Gophers control Bemidji State in the paint

Minnesota opened play at Williams Arena last night with an 83-59 win over Bemidji State last night led by the 22 points from sophomore Jordan Murphy.

Sophomore Jordan Murphy's 22 was on 9 of 12 shooting in 28 minutes played plus he grabbed five boards, blocked five shots, and hit 4 of 6 free throws.  Next to him freshman Eric Curry corralled 14 rebounds with 17 points in 27 minutes giving him a double-double.

Add in the ten points, five boards, and four blocks from Reggie Lynch in 14 minutes and the Gopher frontcourt domination was complete.  Minnesota totaled 50 points in the paint and another 19 from the foul line so they only needed to make five jumpshots. 

"Eric obviously was tremendous,” said Gopher Head Coach Richard Pitino. “I think we got a steal there. It's natural when you've got two instinct kids, two of better players in the state in Michael Hurt and Amir Coffey, you're always going to talk about the in state guys, but Eric's future is extremely bright.

“(He) plays hard. Has length. Plays the four and the five. Obviously, (Eric’s) got really, really good hands. It didn't really show how good of a passer he is, but I think he's going to be a really great player.

Freshman Amir Coffey was able to showcase his versatility dishing out a team high five assists, grabbing six boards, scoring twice, blocking a shot, totaling several deflections, and regularly pushing the basketball after pulling down defensive boards.

“I thought Amir, with the assists and the rebounding, he did a really good job there,” Coffey said.  “Did a pretty good job defensively. Still want him to be aggressive from a scoring standpoint. Those guys missed some free throws, but I think that was just nerves.”

Freshman Michael Hurt was a bit bashful with releasing his jumpshot early but made a pair of second half three-pointers.  Hurt played well limiting mistakes on both ends.

“Mike gave us the dimension that we need from him, hitting two threes,” Pitino said. “I'm excited about all of these guys. I though Reggie was really good when he got his legs under him a little. Just foul trouble. He's got to find a way to not do that."

Jordan Murphy started slow with some defensive mistakes but once he got into the flow of the game the Beaver low post defenders could do nothing with his quick spin or quick face-up first step followed by a strong vault to finish. 

Jordan is focused on pushing this team into the future and forgetting about last year’s eight win campaign.

"I think we all feel the need to step up in a way,” Jordan said.  “We all now what type of year this is going to be with what are expectations are for ourselves and what the expectations our coaches have for us.  We need to know and believe in ourselves."

The Gophers were without team leader Nate Mason who was in street clothes after he suffered a concussion.  Nate’s head was battered by a Bakary Konate elbow in practice.

"I'd rather he play,” Pitino said of Mason.  “It was kind of hard because the rotation has had Dupree McBrayer playing the two, as well as the back up one, and Akeem Springs was playing the two.

“I couldn't really move Amir Coffey to the one because I didn't have time. Ideally, you get Nate in there. I thought the guys did a good job of figuring out on the fly. Stephon Sharp gave us good minutes."

Sharp’s stat line was quiet with two assists and no turnovers in 11 minutes but he was steady when Dupree needed a break.  McBrayer pushed the pace for 18 points in 30 minutes and knocked out two second half perimeter jumpers which was a good sign (last season he started slow from distance).

Now the Gophers have to get Akeem Srings going with some consistency.  There is no doubt the senior can produce, he had an excellent season at UW-Milwaukee last year. 

But so far Springs has publically went 0 for 5 with 0 points in the maroon/gold scrimmage, seven three point makes and a team high in scoring against DePaul, and then back to 0 for 5 from the field and 0 points last night.

"We don't have a lot of depth, so he's going to play,” Pitino said of Springs.  “I think he's going to play a lot. Hopefully his role is to give us a bit of everything. He plays hard, shows good leadership, works really hard. He talks on defense. That really helps us out."

Overall it was a game for Minnesota to get their feet wet and they did it with a 24 point win despite their leader sitting on the bench cheering.  The Gophers now have a week to prepare for Louisiana-Lafayette in the season opener.

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