Gophers’ bench sparks 2nd half run, improve to 5-0

The Gophers were down by as much as 15 midway through the second half, but never gave up in an 85-80 win over Boston College.

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Parker Johnson

Gophers Center Liam Robbins leaps for the ball at Williams Arena on Friday, Dec. 4. The Gophers went on to a 76-67 victory over the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

The Gophers men’s basketball team didn’t shoot the best from the charity stripe, but they hit them down the stretch to ensure a second half comeback wasn’t forgotten about. After being down by 15 with just over 14 minutes left to play, the Gophers turned things around.

“We didn’t panic when we were down 15, which was great. We just stayed the course and obviously that run with the bench cut it back to one. We were able to get some fresh legs and make some really big plays down the stretch,” head coach Richard Pitino said.

Freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr. gave the Gophers a much needed boost off the bench and helped them go on a 19-5 run and bring the game back to within one. Mashburn set all kinds of career-highs in Tuesday’s win, the most important being his 10 points and three rebounds. One of his key plays included an offensive rebound on a missed free throw to set up a 3-pointer by sophomore Isaiah Ihnen during the early stages of that 19-5 run.

Ihnen was alongside Mashburn Jr. during that run and was a big part of the defense getting stops.

“They absolutely came in and brought some life and that’s what embracing your role is all about,” Pitino said. “They came in and brought unbelievable selfless energy and obviously had a huge run.”

Mashburn Jr. hasn’t really had the time in past games to get in a groove, but he was given the chance tonight and ran away with it. It doesn’t matter the amount of time he plays on the court each game, he gives his best effort.

“I just try every night to be a pest on the defensive end and come in and give a different look than our starting point guard who’s a phenomenal player,” Mashburn Jr. said. “My biggest focus when I get in the game is just to be the best defender out there and the offense will take care of itself.”

After a slow start to the game for redshirt junior Marcus Carr, he went back to what he does best: making contested layups. Carr scored a combined 20 points in the second half and overtime that included 5-for-6 from the line to help secure the overtime win. He wasn’t too efficient from the field shooting just 35%, but he turned it on when it was needed most while scoring 22.

Junior Both Gach scored 12 points in that same span but did it on eight less shots than Carr. The junior finished with 16 points and was huge for the Gophers down the stretch hitting two big three pointers.

“Those guys, Both, Marcus are great players and in my opinion they’re professionals the way they carry themselves. And as a professional, you got to be able to finish games, close games, and they’re great. I just try to bring the energy off the bench and uplift those guys rather than bring them down,” Mashburn Jr. said.

An early tendency for the Gophers was to get the 7-foot junior Liam Robbins involved down in the post. He was able to set a season-high in points with 14 to go along with eight boards, three on the offensive side.

Aside from the six minute dull stretch, the Gophers played tight team defense and forced the Eagles to beat them outside of the paint. Boston College slowed down from three but still shot 12-for-35 from deep and was a big reason they were in this game.

The Gophers’ bench was getting loud and the energy was high right off the bat and continued through the game. The bench scored 26 points and were a big reason for the second half run to get the Gophers back in the game.

“We’re coming off the bench knowing we can make a run, bring some energy. That’s what we’re good at, me and [Mashburn Jr.]. Just came in confident, making winning plays, not worrying about our own stats or anything. Just doing everything we can to help the team and that’s what we did,” sophomore Tre’ Williams said.

Neither team was able to gain much ground with the lead in the first half, with the biggest being six points in favor of the Gophers. Both teams finished the first half shooting 12-for-29 from the field. The Gophers finished the game with a slight edge at 44%.

A late injury to grad transfer Brandon Johnson led to him being helped off the floor while in a lot of pain. Pitino doesn’t know the exact injury, but it led to the post-game talk happening in the training room.

“He looked like he was in pain, knock on wood it’s not serious, I have no idea. Instead of the whole team going to the locker room, the whole team went to Brandon. It says a lot about the chemistry on this team,” Pitino said.

The Gophers are back in action Thursday night as they host Kansas City at the Barn and look to stay undefeated.