Gophers stay undefeated with 28-point win against Western Carolina

Forward Jordan Murphy scored 17 points in the second half to help Minnesota rout Western Carolina.

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to drive towards the hoop at the Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017.

Jack Rodgers

Forward Jordan Murphy looks to drive towards the hoop at the Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017.

by Jack Warrick

Western Carolina lost to No. 12 Cincinnati by 51 points on Monday and the No.14 Gophers didn’t treat the team much better.

The Gophers won Sunday’s game 92-64, marking their highest-margin victory of the year. Even though it wasn’t a spectacular game to watch, the Gophers kept a big lead in the chippy game.

By the final buzzer, Minnesota (4-0) had almost 30 points on Western Carolina (1-3)  at Williams Arena on Sunday.

“[We] got the win, didn’t play great, obviously,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “Talked a lot about guarding the three-point line. Certainly we did not execute that. We talked a lot about defensive rebounds, certainly we didn’t execute that.”

The Catamounts came out hitting three-point shots. Freshman guard Matt Halvorsen went 4-4 from behind the three point line with seven minutes played in the game. The Gophers let up 33 points to the Catamounts from three points shots, and 7-10 in the first half — allowing Western Carolina to keep it close at 32-30 with five minutes to play in the first. 

“I mean our three-point defense has to improve,” said Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy. “We just did a good job of taking that punch and throwing a couple of our own, and we did a good job bouncing back.”

Murphy, the Gophers leading scorer this season, started slow again with just six points in the first half. He came out in the second frame and hit two field goals and 13 more free throws to lead the Gophers in scoring with 23 points at the end. Murphy ended with a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds.

“I didn’t rebound very good in the first half, and that’s why I think I struggled a little bit,” Murphy said. “But I think as the second half went on, I started to relax a little bit more.”

The Gophers slowly pulled away with the overwhelming lead after the two point deficit in the first. But foul trouble kept center Reggie Lynch and guard Nate Mason off the court for much of the second half. Both teams were chippy in the game — Western Carolina had 30 personal fouls to Minnesota’s 20.

Guard Isaiah Washington and forward Michael Hurt led the bench in scoring. Washington filled the hole left by Lynch and Mason. Washington’s 10 points were the most he’s scored this season. Hurt’s four points on four shots wasn’t indicative of the positive influence he had in moving and cutting on the court.

Center Bakary Konaté had two rebounds, an assist and two points on one shot in his time off the bench.

“I thought they did a good job keeping the energy up that [Lynch] and [Mason] had,” Murphy said. “I think they did a good job not having the effort drop off, and just did a good job just doing what they needed to do just to stay on the floor.”

The Gophers will stick around for one more home game at Williams Arena before heading to Brooklyn for the Barclays Center Classic. The Gophers will take on Alabama A&M (0-3) on Tuesday.