Gophers defeat Southern Illinois 57-45 to stay undefeated

Center Reggie Lynch sat out the game with an ankle injury.

Freshman guard Amir Coffey attempts to score at Williams Arena on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. The Gophers would win 92-86 against St. Johns University.

Chris Dang

Freshman guard Amir Coffey attempts to score at Williams Arena on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. The Gophers would win 92-86 against St. John’s University.

by Jack White

The Gophers were missing the Big Ten’s leading shot blocker — center Reggie Lynch — but the team rose to the occasion on defense.

Minnesota (6-0) held Southern Illinois (3-3) to 31 percent from field-goal range as the Gophers defeated the Salukis 57-45 Friday at Williams Arena.

“The 6-0 start I’m obviously pleased with, but we need a wake-up call there from an offensive standpoint,” said head coach Richard Pitino.

The Gophers’ 57 points was the lowest point total the team has scored this season. Every other game the Gophers have scored at least 80 points.

Guard Amir Coffey was the top scorer on the team with 13 points. He also added two assists.

“At the end of the day, [Coffey] played 35 minutes, did some good things for us, got to do some better things, so I don’t know about slow starts or anything,” Pitino said.

Forward Eric Curry earned his first start of the season in Lynch’s absence. He had eight points and five turnovers in the game.

“[Lynch] is a big force in the middle, but [Curry] has some of the same qualities,” said guard Nate Mason. “I feel like [Curry] played a good game.”

Minnesota shot 12-22 from the free-throw line. The team started out with a 3-10 performance from the line in the first half. The Gophers improved in the second half, going 9-12 from the line.

Pitino said the team emphasizes free throws every day.

“You know what happens, you miss a couple, and all of a sudden everybody gets a little tight,” Pitino said. “Our guys got to understand to stay confident.”

Even without Lynch, Minnesota won the rebounding battle in the game. The Gophers had 44 rebounds to the Salukis’ 37.

Guard Akeem Springs went 0-5 from field-goal range, only scoring 2 points in the game.

“We want him to take good shots,” Pitino said. “He didn’t make shots, but he had five great rebounds.”

Guard Dupree McBrayer tied for second on the team in scoring with 11 points. He also led the team in assists with six.

Mason said the team was sluggish and didn’t make excuses.

“We didn’t play our best basketball,” Mason said. “We started off slow. Not because of Thanksgiving and eating a lot. We have to grow up a little bit.”

Southern Illinois scored 45 points on 61 shots. The team also had 11 turnovers to Minnesota’s 10.

“We guarded the three-point line pretty well,” Mason said. “In the second half, we kind of got lazy and guys were passing up defensively.”

Forward Thik Bol was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points. He also had three blocks.

Power forward Jordan Murphy had nine points and two turnovers in 28 minutes of play.

Mason said that Murphy can shoot the ball; he just doesn’t have the confidence.

“I try to tell him shoot the ball all the time,” Mason said. “Once he gets the confidence it’s going to be a plus for us.”

Minnesota plays No. 25 Florida State (5-1) in its next game on Nov. 28. The matchup is the Gophers’ first away game of the season.