Gophers begin Vancouver Showcase with 69-64 victory against Texas A&M

Minnesota broke open the close game late with gritty play.

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to shoot at Williams Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1. The Gophers defeated the Bulldogs 109-53.

Jack Rodgers

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to shoot at Williams Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1. The Gophers defeated the Bulldogs 109-53.

Nick Jungheim

Minnesota traveled for the first time this season participate in the inaugural TCL Vancouver Showcase in British Columbia, Canada. The team had the first of three games in four days on Sunday night, when they took on Texas A&M.

The Gophers fought hard in a physical game down the stretch to earn a 69-64 victory. Head coach Richard Pitino was proud of his team’s resolve as they improved to 3-0 on the season.

“We just needed to find a way to get out of there with a win,” Pitino told the Gopher radio network. “We weren’t playing great, and we just had to calm down. We gave up a big lead, but I thought we showed really good poise.”

Minnesota built a 10-point, halftime lead thanks to shooting 50 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, including 41.7 percent from behind the line. However, Texas A&M stuck around as Minnesota struggled with turnovers throughout the night.

Minnesota led by as many as 14, but that lead didn’t hold. Texas A&M went on a 20-6 run in the second half to take a three-point lead, but Minnesota responded with scrappy play to take back the lead. The Gophers closed out the game on a 12-4 run of their own to secure a five-point victory.  

The victory could have been more decisive if not for a rough night for the Gophers from the free-throw line. Minnesota shot just 18 of 32 (.563) on free-throw attempts.  

“I said to the team, we didn’t play great,” Pitino told the Gopher radio network. “You turn the ball over 20 times, you miss 14 free throws, you’re probably not going to win the game. But we just found a way through offensive rebounding and winning plays at the end.

Senior Jordan Murphy led the Gophers with 14 points but fell short of a third consecutive double-double with just seven rebounds. Junior Amir Coffey added 12 points and senior Dupree McBrayer also scored in double digits with 10.

Minnesota will have Monday off before taking on Santa Clara on Tuesday and Washington on Wednesday.  Those two teams played earlier on Sunday and Washington won 82-68.

“We’ve just got to make sure we can rest, refocus,” Pitino told the Gopher radio network. “[It’s a] big mentality game, we’ve got to make sure we get some sleep tonight.”