Gophers blow out Miami

Minnesota advanced to the third round of the NIT with a convincing win on the Hurricanes’ home court.

Charlie Armitz

It’s been a while since the Gophers have blown out an opponent — especially one the team wasn’t expected to beat.

Minnesota looked comfortable in a winning position Monday, however, as it dominated No. 2 seed Miami (Fla.) 78-60 in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament in Coral Gables, Fla.

The No. 6-seeded Gophers shot 58 percent from the field and used a 15-2 second-half run to open up a 56-33 lead, forcing many Hurricanes fans to head for the exits midway through the second half.

Miami missed its first 14 shots from long range and finished 4-for-25 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Poor shooting and questionable shot selection doomed the Hurricanes early as Minnesota grabbed a 12-0 lead and held Miami scoreless for the game’s first six minutes.

After the Hurricanes responded with an 11-0 run, the Gophers picked up their intensity and regained a 12-point lead by halftime.

Minnesota led 35-23 at the break but looked to be in trouble early in the second half when center Elliott Eliason and forward Rodney Williams each picked up a third foul, and Oto Osenieks took a blow to the head.

But 6-foot-7-inch forward Andre Ingram, who seldom played meaningful minutes during the regular season, provided an energy boost to hold off a potential rally. Ingram recorded season-highs in points (8), rebounds (6) and minutes (24).

Williams tied a career-high with 21 points to lead Minnesota, 17 of which came in the first half. He made nine of 10 field goals.

Freshman guards Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins each added 14 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Julian Welch had 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.

The Gophers took advantage of lazy defense from the Hurricanes throughout the game to score frequently in transition and on second-chance points.

Five Minnesota players had at least five rebounds, and the Gophers out-rebounded Miami 41-26.

The Hurricanes, who finished the tough ACC conference with a 9-7 record and defeated Duke and Florida State during the regular season, looked disinterested throughout Monday’s contest, playing well only in short spurts.

The Gophers, on the other hand, have found a second wind in their two NIT games while playing a faster pace of play than they did during a grueling Big Ten season.

They shot 52 percent in their 70-61 first-round NIT win against La Salle and got open layups and 3-point shots throughout the game — just as they did Monday.

Defensively, Minnesota has used its size and athleticism to force turnovers and collect long rebounds, leading to fast-break opportunities.

During one two-game stretch in late February, the Gophers shot 28 percent against Indiana and Wisconsin.             

Now, Minnesota (21-14) looks like a more confident, polished version of the team that started the season 12-1 against inferior competition at home.

The Gophers will play at No. 4 seed Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday in the NIT quarterfinals. A win against the Blue Raiders would pit Minnesota against Washington or Oregon — two teams that have dominated the first two rounds of the NIT.