Gophers defeat Ragin’ Cajuns 86-74 in season opener

Five of Minnesota’s players had double-digit marks during Friday’s game.

Junior guard Nate Mason runs the ball up the court on Friday at Williams Arena. The Gophers would go on to win 86-74 against the Ragin' Cajuns.

Chris Dang

Junior guard Nate Mason runs the ball up the court on Friday at Williams Arena. The Gophers would go on to win 86-74 against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Tommy Sletten

After last year’s 8-23 record, the Gophers looked to start thisseason off on a high note and did just that, beating Louisiana-Lafayette 86-74 at Williams Arena in Friday’s season opener.

Five Gophers tallied double-digit scoring in the game, which featured the debuts of highly-touted freshman and Hopkins, Minnesota native Amir Coffey and transfer forward Reggie Lynch.

“I really like the balance of this team,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “I think that having that many options on the court is tough to guard … I think we’ve got a chance, if we stay healthy, to have a really balanced squad.”

Coffey finished with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists. Lynch had 10 points and eight rebounds, but was limited in the second half due to foul trouble.

Coffey, who won the Minnesota Mr. Basketball award as a senior in high school last year, has been anticipating taking the court for the Gophers for a while.

He follows the footsteps of his father, Richard, who also played for Minnesota.

The beginning of the game between the Gophers and the Ragin’ Cajuns was one-sided in favor of Minnesota.

Minnesota created five turnovers in the first six minutes and forced Louisiana-Lafayette to commit seven fouls, which culminated in a 17-4 lead.

Minnesota then went on an 11-5 run, spring-boarded by three consecutive three-point shots by transfer guard Akeem Springs, who also made his Minnesota debut Friday.

To close out the half, junior guard Nate Mason electrified the crowd with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, assisted by sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer, that pushed the score to 48-26.

“It sent chills to my body,” Mason said. “It felt good hitting a shot like that.”

Overall, the first half posed no challenge to the Gophers, who suffocated the Ragin’ Cajuns with their half-court press and forced 12 turnovers and numerous rushed shots.

The Gophers did more of the same to start the second half.

Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy got the crowd on its feet after he obliterated a defender with a dunk, which hyped up the Minnesota bench in the process.

The Gophers dismantled the Ragin’ Cajuns as a unit throughout the second half, provided balanced scoring and controlled the pace of the game.

Minnesota bested Louisiana-Lafayette 50.9 percent to 31.9 percent for total shots in the game, and 40 percent to 33.3 percent from the three-point line.

McBrayer and Mason led all scorers with 15 points each, while Mason also chipped in seven assists and four rebounds.

Mason cited a shift in the team’s attitude for its successful performance Friday.

“You can tell it’s a big difference last year from this year,” Mason said. “You see improvements, and you see production.”