Murphy shines, Gophers force shooting woes

Rutgers shot 21.4 percent from behind the arc in the 72-63 Minnesota victory.

Forward Eric Curry jumps to defend against sophomore forward Ivan Bender on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, at the Sports Pavilion.

Image by Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Forward Eric Curry jumps to defend against sophomore forward Ivan Bender on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, at the Sports Pavilion.

by Jack White

The Gophers utilized their opponent’s weakness — 3-point shooting — Saturday in a 72-63 victory over Rutgers (13-13, 2-12 Big Ten).

Minnesota (18-7, 6-6) defeated the Scarlet Knights, who shot 45.5 percent from the line and 21.4 percent from behind the arc, on the road.

”I think we’re a good team,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the game. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to get better. After 25 games, I love where we sit. I really do.”

A layup and 3-point field goal cut the Gophers’ lead to five with 4:02 left in the game. After the run, the Scarlet Knights made one shot in four minutes as Minnesota finished out the game with a nine-point victory.

Rutgers missed its last four shots of the game, while Minnesota made four consecutive free throws. The Gophers finished shooting 86.7 percent from the line.

Power forward Jordan Murphy had his second consecutive double-double.

Murphy, who scored 25 points last game, had 17 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday.

“Murphy set the tone in the first half,” Pitino told reporters. “A lot to be extremely proud of and excited about.”

Murphy got the ball outside the three-point line and drove to the rim in the first half. Rutgers’s C.J. Gettys went for the charge attempt, and Murphy slammed the ball, knocking Gettys over. The dunk drew a foul and Murphy went to the line for a three-point play.

Guard Nate Mason scored 16 points on 5-16 shooting. Mason also contributed to the team’s perimeter defense. Rutgers had no players make more than two three-pointers.

Gophers Center Reggie Lynch scored just two points in the game.

Forward Eric Curry scored 11 points on 5-5 shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds along with two rejections.

The Gophers outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 40-34.

“We came in knowing they were a really good offensive rebounding team,” Murphy told reporters. “Coach emphasized that [Deshawn Freeman] and Gettys really like to crash the boards, so we made a conscious effort to rebound.”

Guard Mike Williams was the only player to hit two 3-pointers for the Scarlet Knights. He shot 2-7 from behind the arc in the game.

Guard Amir Coffey tied Mason for first in assists on the Gophers. Both Coffey and Mason each had five. Coffey amassed 12 points on 5-9 shooting.

The Scarlet Knights mounted a comeback with a 9-0 run in the first half. Rutgers’ Freeman had two dunks during that stretch.

Mason made back-to-back 3-point attempts for the Gophers’ first six points of the second half.

Minnesota’s lost half of its 12-point lead when Rutgers went on a 6-0 run in the second half.

Williams started out 2-3 from the field in the second, and he had four of the six points on the run.

Minnesota came out the gate fast, going on a 9-2 run to start the game. Murphy picked up where he left off last game and scored seven points during that stint.

Minnesota’s next game comes at home against Indiana on Feb. 15. The Gophers are currently riding a three-game winning streak.

”We’re playing our best basketball,” Pitino said. ”It’s most important to do that in February.”