Gophers stymie Friars
No. 14 Minnesota controls paint in win at Dunk
PROVDENCE — Ed Cooley wasn’t kidding when he said Minnesota might be the best team his Providence Friars see this season.
Once the 14th-ranked Gophers got cooking in the second half, there wasn’t much that anyone in a Friar uniform could do to slow down what proved to be a lethal shot-making force.
Minnesota shot a whopping 60.7 percent over the final 20 minutes and 50.8 percent for the game to pull away for an 86-74 win before 10,214 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
PC certainly created some anxious moments for head coach Richard Pitino’s crew, but the Gophers controlled the final 12 minutes en route to grabbing conference bragging rights. The game was played as part of the Gavitt Games that pits Big East schools against those from the Big Ten.
Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy was the epitome of a wrecking ball, scoring a gamehigh 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting while pulling down 14 rebounds. As Murphy went, so did the Gophers. After scoring six points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, the junior roared for 17 second-half points as Minnesota went from down three at the break to outscoring PC by 15 in the second half.
“I’ll have nightmares about (Murphy) for a couple of weeks. He played really well,” said Ed Cooley after dropping just his second-ever non-conference game in his Friar coaching tenure. “He was a man amongst boys. He was a game-changer and the best player in the building.”
“He was just unstoppable,” said Pitino, a Friar alum, about Murphy.
Minnesota was also aided by Nate Mason (17 points) and Amir Coffey (15 points). Coffey buried all three of his 3point tries in the second half after going 0-for-3 from beyond the arc in the opening half. The Gophers had just six assists on 30 made baskets, a trend that greatly disturbed Cooley.
“That’s when you look yourself in the eye and realize that whoever had the ball went right by you. That might the stat of the century in a basketball game,” said Cooley. “There wasn’t any individual defense or team defense. That’s on me and I’ll make that correction.”
The Friars received 12 points apiece from senior Kyron Cartwright and freshman Nate Watson. Kalif Young got on a roll early in the second half as the sophomore finished with 11 points. Isaiah Jackson was perfect from the field (2-of-2, both threes) and from the foul line (4-of-4) for 10 points.
“I think they’ve got to rebound a little bit better,” said Cooley when asked about the production he received from Young and Watson, who combined for five boards. “But that number of points from the center position is pretty good.”
Cartwright finished with nine assists, though seven came on PC’s first 14 baskets. The other two seniors on the roster, Jalen Lindsey and Rodney Bullock, combined for 15 points. Lindsey competed in his first contest after missing the three-game preseason and last Friday’s season opener against Houston Baptist with an ankle injury.
“I thought Jalen played pretty well considering he hadn’t played for a bit. He gave us good energy,” said Cooley. “If those three seniors don’t play well, we’re going to have a tough time winning games.”
The first half was a backand-forth affair that saw Minnesota land the first punch and jump out to a 12-2 lead. Providence was able to give its crowd plenty to cheer about Cooley turned to his bench and inserted Lindsey and Watson. Just before the half, Lindsey and Jackson drilled back-toback threes to push PC’s lead to six (39-33).
The Friars’ lead stood at five (51-46) in the second half before the Gophers hit another gear that enabled them to pull away. Alayup by Coffey and a dunk by Murphy kick-started a game-turning sequence as Minnesota took its biggest lead (15 points) with 2:40 remaining.
“We showed great poise in a tough environment,” said Pitino. “That’s what good teams do.”
For the Friars, they’ll take a few days to regroup before heading down to Madison Square Garden for the next phase of the 2K Classic.
“We’ll move on. It’s not the end of the world. It (stinks) when you lose, but we’ll look forward to playing a tough Washington team on Thursday night and try to bounce back,” said Cooley. “I like these tough games early in the season. You find out a lot about your team.” RIM RATTLERS: There was a huge NBA scouting contingent on hand for the first regular-season game at The Dunk. The list of representatives included Boston, Detroit, New York, Oklahoma City, Washington, Brooklyn, Memphis, and both Los Angeles outfits. … Sitting courtside was former Friar great Otis Thorpe, whose No. 33 hangs proudly in The Dunk rafters. … A moment of silence was held for John Zannini and Drew Brown before the game. Zannini was the Friars’ longtime radio statistician who passed away from cancer this past June. Aformer PC hockey player, Brown’s life was also cut short due to cancer. The 25-year-old died this past Saturday. … A video tribute for Zannini that was narrated by longtime PC radio broadcaster John Rooke took place at the first media timeout. Zannini’s wife Lisa and his children Matthew and Alexandra were introduced to the crowd. … Pitino on the mixed reaction he received from the crowd during pregame introductions: “What the heck is that? I’m a graduate.”
Providence College freshman forward Nate Watson (0) was the Friars’ most efficient player Monday night with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting in an 86-74 defeat to No. 14 Minnesota at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
A pair of Providence College guards battle for a loose ball during Monday’s 86-74 defeat to No. 14 Minnesota at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The Friars sit at 1-1 headed into Thursday’s 2K Classic game with Washington at Madison Square Garden Thursday night at 9:30.