Gophers win first two games of the year

Senior forward Joey King scored 42 total points for the team over the weekend.

Kevin Dorsey drives towards the basket Friday evening at Williams Arena where the Gophers defeated UMKC 76-58.

Sam Harper

Kevin Dorsey drives towards the basket Friday evening at Williams Arena where the Gophers defeated UMKC 76-58.

by Ryan Falk

The crowd was silent; the Gophers had given up a 13-point lead in the second half.
But Minnesota raised the volume of Williams Arena with a 17-5 run to secure its second win of the season, beating Louisiana-Monroe 67-56.
“When it was time to respond, we responded well,” head coach Richard Pitino said.
The Gophers left two freshmen on the floor to close out the game: guard Kevin Dorsey and forward Jordan Murphy.
Dorsey added 11 points off the bench, scoring five in the second half during Minnesota’s final run. 
“We stayed focused,” Dorsey said. “We kept saying, ‘We good; we good,’ so we kept grinding.” 
Senior forward Joey King followed up his career-high scoring performance on Friday with another 20-point game on Sunday, adding eight rebounds.
 
King scored six of the 17 points on Minnesota’s game-clinching run.
 
“[King’s] been awesome. He stepped up first game; he stepped up this game. Hopefully we keep it going,” sophomore guard Nate Mason said.
 
The game provided an early challenge for the young Gophers before the team continues its nonconference schedule on Thursday in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
 
“I did want to get tested before Puerto Rico, and I think [the game] did that,” Pitino said.
 
The Gophers relied on their defense for most of the game, holding the Warhawks to 33.9 percent shooting.
 
Gophers’ second half gives them season opening victory
 
The Gophers started their season out sluggish in the first half against the University of Missouri-Kansas City, but Minnesota used a strong second half to pull away for its first victory of the season.
 
The Gophers outscored the Kangaroos by 16 in the second half to win 76-58.
 
Minnesota didn’t shoot well to start, shooting just 38.7 percent in the first half, but ended strong to go into halftime up 32-30. 
 
“I thought our defense, our half-court defense, was really good,” Pitino said.
 
Sophomore center Bakary Konate returned to the court after a stress fracture in his foot kept him out of the team’s exhibition games. He had three blocks in six minutes in his first game back.
 
Despite Konate returning, the Gophers played a smaller lineup for most of the game, with King manning the center position.
 
“We had to adjust and go small,” Pitino said. “Certainly, it was beneficial; it got them out of that zone [defense]. We really spread them out and drove [on] them.” 
 
The lineup gave the Gophers the spark they needed to get their offense going, especially from deep.
 
Minnesota shot 61.5 percent from three-point range in the second half to pull away.
 
King scored a career-high 22 points in Friday night’s victory, shooting 70 percent and 6-of-9 from three.  
 
“The work I put in and the confidence I’ve gained knowing that this is my last year,” King said. “You know, I just want to do everything to help our team win.”