Freshmen assist first Big Ten victories

Freshman forward Jordan Murphy has had a double-double the last two games.

Minnesota guard Kevin Dorsey pushes toward the net at Williams Arena on Tuesday night, when the Gophers defeated Rutgers 83-61.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Kevin Dorsey pushes toward the net at Williams Arena on Tuesday night, when the Gophers defeated Rutgers 83-61.

Ryan Falk

The Gophers freshmen class earned its first Big Ten victory on Feb. 18 against Maryland, which also led to the first court rush of the group’s careers.
 
 
The rookies have been asked to fill big roles in their first year, with two of them in the starting lineup. The young players had rough moments adjusting to college basketball, but in Minnesota’s last two games, they’ve played a key role in the team’s two victories.
 
 
“They see what we can become,” head coach Richard Pitino said after the team’s victory against Maryland.
 
 
The Gophers roster only has one senior in forward Joey King after the dismissal of guard Carlos Morris, and some of the team’s freshmen have played even more the last two games as a result.
 
 
Freshman guard Kevin Dorsey, who has averaged 18.2 minutes per game this season, played 29 minutes against Maryland and 24 against Rutgers.
 
 
Freshman guard Ahmad Gilbert played 17 minutes against the Terrapins and 18 against the Scarlet Knights, up from his average of 9.7 per game.
 
 
The Gophers have also continued to receive strong minutes from freshman forward Jordan Murphy, who earned his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week award after his 17-point, 11-rebound performance against Maryland.
 
 
He had another double-double against Rutgers with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
 
 
Murphy leads Minnesota with 218 rebounds, which is 100 more than his next-closest teammate has. Both his rebounding total and average rank third in the Big Ten as of Wednesday afternoon.
 
 
“I’m happy with [the two-game victory streak],” Murphy said after the team’s victory over Rutgers. “At the same time, we just got to keep working. Season’s not over yet, and at this point, I don’t think anyone is really satisfied.”
 
 
Dorsey and freshman guard Dupree McBrayer also provided a boost in the backcourt in the two victories, with each injecting speed into the lineup.
 
 
Both players scored in double digits against Rutgers with Dorsey tallying 13 points and McBrayer adding 14.
 
 
The two also combined for 12 assists and 11 rebounds in the game.
 
 
“I think Dupree McBrayer is getting better in front of our eyes,” Pitino said after the team’s win over Rutgers. “I think Kevin Dorsey is getting better.”
 
 
The freshmen’s improvement led to the Gophers’ first two victories in Big Ten play, which gives the team something to build off of at the end of the regular season.
 
 
“My confidence is high right now, so I’m definitely playing way better,” McBrayer said after the victory over Rutgers.