House Report: Jordan Murphy leads the Gophers past USC Upstate


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Feb 8, 2017
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Sometimes non-conference games cause teams to learn more about themselves.

This was the case as USC Upstate shot nearly 50 percent from the three-point line for most of the first half. Not only did the Gophers struggle to defend the arc, but they didn’t shoot the ball well, especially when the Spartans were in a matchup zone. The game was tied at 31 late in the first half, but a 12-2 run brought the Gophers into the break with a ten-point lead. USC Upstate went on small runs throughout, but Minnesota used 35 points and 15 rebounds from Jordan Murphy to fuel a 92-77 victory.

USC Upstate feels it from the three-point stripe
USC Upstate opened the game shooting 4-for-8 from the three-point stripe. Jure Span notched quick six points. Minnesota struggled to defend the arc during certain stretches of the exhibition slate and it was more noticeable in Friday night’s game. USC Upstate opened the game with a quick 16-12 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. The Gophers went 1-for-9 during a scoring drought that stretched over four minutes. They also had four turnovers, including multiple traveling violations. The Spartans’ success from the three-point line continued throughout the game. They shot 7-for-14 from three-point land by the four-minute mark of the first half.

As the game progressed, Minnesota started to clamp down on the defensive end, holding USC Upstate to a three-minute scoring drought. The Spartans ended the half by hitting just one of their final eight shots. Back-to-back three-pointers by Isaiah Washington and Amir Coffey helped the Gophers reclaim a seven-point lead at the :54.8 mark. Minnesota finished the half on a 12-2 run over 2:31 and went into the break with a 43-33 lead.

USC Upstate still hit three-pointers in the second half and finished the night 45 percent (14-for-31) from behind the stripe. The Gophers also struggled to take care of the basketball, limiting the overall maximization of their possessions. It kept the game much closer than it probably should have been.

Murphy and Lynch kill the Spartans down low

The Gophers didn’t have any trouble down low, especially with the size mismatch they held. Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy tallied a combined 50 points and 25 rebounds. Murphy was 13-for-22 from the floor and finished the night with 35 points and 15 rebounds. He split four defenders and finished with a slam to close out his performance. Murphy was commanding the floor well and rallying the troops, even head coach Richard Pitino noticed.

“He was a terrific leader today,” Pitino said. When asked about what has changed for Murphy this year, Pitino said, "Just a belief that he can score on the block. He had nine offensive rebounds, they could not keep him off the glass."

USC Upstate had no answer for the Gophers’ low-post play. Exactly 50 percent of Minnesota’s 92 points came in the paint. They showed they are most effective when they display effective ball movement and create looks for their low post players. Now, the Gophers need to get their post players touches and their guards must be aggressive when the ball is reversed outside. The Spartans had no answer for the Lynch-Murphy duo, which lifted the Gophers past their slow start.

Guards struggle for the Gophers
Minnesota’s guards had trouble with the matchup zone USC Upstate deployed. The Gophers’ four main guards combined to score just 14 first half points. This was a major development as guard play carried them in their first two exhibition contests. Isaiah Washington scored his first points of the game at the 14:52 mark after opening the game shooting 0-for-4. Washington’s three-pointer provided a nice lift for the Gophers in the late stages of the first half. However, he struggled in his official collegiate debut, shooting just 1-for-9 and scoring just four points.

Amir Coffey was frustrated throughout the game and fouled out in the final minutes. He had just 8 points and needed to be restrained after a questionable foul call. Nate Mason drilled a long three-pointer to start the second half, but had just 11 points.

The Gophers were very sloppy with the ball and had 13 turnovers, which allowed USC Upstate to keep the game close. Not only that, but their guards struggled to hit jump shots throughout the night.

Minnesota will need to practice against a zone and take better care of the basketball before traveling to Providence for a Monday night matchup with the Friars.

Postgame reaction:



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Feb 9, 2017
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Great film game. I know we want to focus on the Gophers shortcomings but we should give Upstate credit too. Those guys came in and shot the lights out like Daniel said. They were very active in their zone and crashed the boards as hard as an undersized team can. The disappointing part for me was the lack of effort on defense and the cheating on that end. A lot of reaching and lazy close outs. Tons of teaching moments throughout the game which is good and should be fixed as we go through non conference.

Pitino's got a bit of a project on his hands with Washington. The kid's got the scoring ability, handle, vision and athleticism to be a great player but he's gotta take the blinders off when he's in with the bench group. Hurt and Harris are going to have a lot of open looks with his ability to slash and he should play off that. His statline will look a lot better if he gets those guys their shots as it will open things up for himself. Good nights for Jamir and Michael by the way. Both were pretty solid on defense and made shots when the ball came their way.

Overall it's nice to be able to nitpick when you win by 15. Great nights for Murph and Reggie.
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