Gophers escape NYC with a win

Minnesota lost to St. John’s but rebounded with a win over Georgia.

by Jack Satzinger

Minnesota escaped its trip to New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off with a .500 record and two sloppy second halves.

The Gophers lost 70-61 to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night but rebounded with a 66-62 victory against Georgia on Friday.

“It was really important for us to bounce back for this game and pull out the win because we knew we were capable of getting this win and it’s hopefully going to transition to Wake Forest on the road,” junior forward Joey King told reporters Friday.

The Gophers went into halftime on Wednesday with a 40-31 lead, behind a strong performance from Nate Mason.

The freshman guard finished with a team-high 15 points, but he was benched down the stretch in favor of senior starters Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu.

They struggled to be effective, shooting a combined 5-for-16 from the field for 14 points.

Hollins had a particularly tough time, turning the ball over seven times.

Minnesota had 20 turnovers in all, which opened the door for St. John’s to capitalize on the Gophers’ mistakes.

“St. John’s made some really good plays off of silly mistakes we made,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “They ramped it up that second half. You’ve got to give them credit for that. But there were certain things I thought we could have done a better job of.”

St. John’s also did a better job of getting to the foul line, attempting 37 free throws compared to Minnesota’s 16.

D’Angelo Harrison led the way for St. John’s with 19 points, followed by Rysheed Jordan’s 18.

The Gophers went into halftime against Georgia on Friday night with a 12-point lead and again allowed the opposition to claw its way back into the game.

Minnesota managed to hit nearly 60 percent of its 3-pointers in the first half, but it went cold in the second frame.

The Bulldogs took advantage behind Marcus Thornton, who scored a team-high 14 points along with a game-high 10 rebounds. Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier chipped in with 12 points apiece, but Minnesota’s ball pressure was just good enough to escape with a slim victory.

The Gophers forced 18 turnovers, personifying the high-pressure style of defense their head coach wants them to play with.

“We want to be hard-nosed defenders, pressure the ball all the time,” Hollins told reporters after the game. “Just leave it all out on the floor.”