Murphy stays electric, helps Gophers beat UMass 69-51 at Barclays Center Classic

Gophers forward Jordan Murphy had nine rebounds and a team-leading 16 points.

Jack Warrick

Jordan Murphy and the Gophers mens basketball team had no trouble beating the UMass Minutemen and staying undefeated through six games in the first game of the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, New York on Friday.

No.14 Minnesota (6-0) beat the University of Massachusetts (3-2) by a score of 69-51 at the NIU Brooklyn court in Brooklyn, New York on Friday. The Game was the first of the Barclays Center Classic, a round-robin series that includes two games between the four teams invited to the Classic: Minnesota, UMass, BYU, and Alabama.

“I thought our intensity, defensively, first half was terrific,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the game. “Offensively we were sloppy towards the end, but we beat a really well coached team so I’m proud of our guys.”

Murphy, the Gophers big man down low who has led the team in scoring in each of the six games this year, had his first game without a double-double in Friday’s game. He led the team in scoring again with16 points and tallied nine rebounds, just one shy of a double-double, in the win over UMass.

The Minutemen came out flat in the beginning of the game, and Murphy had six unanswered points through the first four minutes. Gophers starting center Reggie Lynch missed a dunk attempt at the four minute mark, and then the Minutemen ran the score back to a 6-6 tie with 12:50 to play in the first half.

The burst of scoring for the Minutemen was not a sign of things to come as the Gophers went on a 9-0 scoring run after the tie, and dominated for the rest of the game. The Gophers offense was the least productive it’s been all year however, with just 69 points. The Gophers least points scored in a game before this was at Providence when they scored 86 on the Friars.

Gophers have been oddly bad at defending three-point shots this year. But in Friday’s game at the high-school sized NIU Brooklyn court, the Gophers defended the three the best they have this year. The Minutemen only shot 20 percent, 5-25, from three-point range. Before the game, the Gophers allowed teams to shoot above 40 percent from behind the three-point line in each of the five previous games, even teams like Alabama A&M, who are ranked near the worst in the country.

Gophers freshman Isaiah Washington was back home Friday, as he went to high school in the Bronx on the north side of the city, where he developed his jelly roll move. He led the bench in scoring on Friday with seven points, though he missed all three, three-point shots and never brought out the jelly move.

“I thought everybody was pretty good. I think our bench is going to have to catch up. Obviously we had some guys in there at the end of the game,” Pitino told reporters. “But they got to get into the flow of things.”

Minnesota will play No. 25 Alabama on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, if there aren’t scheduling difficulties like on Friday. Alabama will be the Gophers’ first ranked challenge of the year. The Crimson Tide beat BYU 71-59 on Friday in the second game of the Barclays Center Classic.

“Now, turn the page, I know [coach Avery Johnson] is a terrific coach, they’ve got really good young talent, so we’ve got to be ready,” Pitino told reporters. “I know they’re a really big team, they’re a really talented team.”