Minnesota's Dupree McBrayer controls the ball against Arkansas State's Kobe Wilson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 72-56. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

MEN’S BASKETBALL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Coach Richard Pitino spoke to his Minnesota Gophers about avoiding a letdown following a challenging early-season schedule with Minnesota hosting Arkansas State on Saturday afternoon.

The Gophers took the message to heart early and then coasted to a decisive victory.

Freshman Daniel Oturu posted season highs with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Dupree McBrayer chipped in 14 points for Minnesota in a 72-56 win against the Red Wolves on Saturday.

“Our guys need to understand how to play in those type of games because your opponent’s got nothing to lose,” Pitino said. “And I thought that we were just dragging a little bit. I do think that our defense was pretty good, held them to 31 percent. But we certainly were not great by any means.”

Oturu had his first double-double and added three blocks for the Gophers (8-2). Amir Coffey finished with 12 points as Minnesota cruised to the win after starting the game with a 21-2 run. The Gophers led by as much as 21 but Arkansas State kept the game within reach and outscored Minnesota 32-31 in the second half.

Ty Cockfield scored 20 points for the Red Wolves (3-6), who has lost five of their past seven games. Tristin Walley added 14 points.

“I liked our effort,” Arkansas State coach Mike Balado said. “I thought our defense took a step tonight. Our offense, unfortunately, didn’t. We shot an awful percentage, but it’s tough when you have two 6-10 guys down there and trying to finish that length.”

Oturu, the 6-foot-10 center, had struggled at times early in his first season while adapting to size and physicality inside as the Gophers’ scheduled featured seven games against major conference programs.

He took advantage of his size against an Arkansas State team, which has 6-9 J.J. Matthews as the tallest starter. Oturu had his first double-digit rebounding effort and was one off his high of four blocks. He was also 9 of 12 from the free-throw line.

“When you play these mid-major teams that are not going to have the size that you have, so you’ve got to be able to physically beat them up down low and inside, and I thought Dan definitely did that,” Pitino said.

Pitino said Oturu sprained his ankle in the second half and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas State: The first big test of the season for the Red Wolves was a disappointment. Minnesota’s opening burst buried Arkansas State and it never recovered. The Red Wolves did play competitively the rest of the way, perhaps a good sign when they get into Sun Belt Conference play.

Minnesota: After a series of games against Power Five conferences, Minnesota’s scheduled lightened a bit starting with the Red Wolves. The Gophers accomplished what it should have: a confidence-building win with no injuries. They hope for the same the rest of December before going to Wisconsin on Jan. 3.

MCBRAYER TO TAKE TIME AWAY

McBrayer’s mother died last week and Pitino said he will leave Monday to return home to New York. His mother’s funeral will be Wednesday and he will miss Tuesday’s game.

QUICK START

McBrayer, Coffey and freshman Gabe Kalscheur propelled the Gophers early. Kalscheur had six of his nine points, while McBrayer and Coffey each had five points in the opening run.

Minnesota also had 11 offensive rebounds on just 17 missed shots in the first half, with four offensive rebounds in the second half.

“I think our mentality was one thing that he had a problem with and I think that’s something we have to address in practice,” Gophers forward Jordan Murphy said. “Our guys, myself, we have to learn through these games that teams have nothing to lose and they’re going to be tough and give us all they can.”

UP NEXT

Arkansas State returns home against Florida Atlantic on Dec. 14.

Minnesota hosts North Florida on Tuesday.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
CHESNUT HILL, Mass. (AP) — Destiny Pitts scored a career-high 35 points and No. 14 Minnesota used an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to defeat Boston College 77-69 on Sunday.

Four different players scored as the Golden Gophers turned a 60-56 deficit into a 67-60 lead with 45 seconds to play.

BC missed seven straight shots and had five turnovers during the 6:53 dry spell. Taylor Ortlepp ended the drought with a 3-pointer but Pitts made all 10 of her foul shots after that to secure the win.

Minnesota (9-0) is off to its best start since the ’03-04 team went 15-0 and the ’02-03 team went 12-0, both when first-year coach Lindsay Whalen was a player.

Annalese Lamke added 13 points for the Golden Gophers and Jasmine Brunson added 11, seven in the fourth quarter.

Ortlepp hit six 3-pointers and scored 25 points for BC (8-2). Down 36-25 at the half, Ortlepp had 11 as the Eagles outscored Minnesota 25-17 in the third quarter to take a 54-53 lead.

MEN’S HOCKEY
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Gopher Hockey team scored twice in the third period to edge No. 15 Michigan 4-3 in Big Ten play and the team’s final outing for the fall semester on Saturday night at Yost Ice Arena.

Tyler Sheehy scored the game-tying goal just 55 seconds into the third period, and line-mate Brent Gates Jr. scored with 1:41 remaining in regulation as Minnesota (5-6-4, 3-2-2-0 B1G) edged out the Wolverines.

The Maroon & Gold staked an early lead with a pair of goals in the first five minutes. After goaltender Mat Robson lost his stick making an impressive save, his Gophers went end-to-end, finishing with Brannon McManus scoring his sixth of the season, assisted by Tommy Novak and Ben Brinkman. On the line’s next shift, Sampo Ranta took advantage of a rebound off the stick of McManus to score his fourth of the season. Tyler Nanne also earned an assist on the play.

No. 15 Michigan (6-7-4, 2-4-4-2 B1G) used its timeout following the play, and the timing worked in their favor as the Wolverines cut into the deficit with back-to-back scores by brothers Nick and Michael Pastujov at 7:43 and 9:26 of the first, respectively, to reset the game at 2-2.

The second period saw the scoring settle down, but Michigan took advantage of its chances to claim its first lead of the game at 3-2 when Josh Norris netted his tenth of the season at 6:59 of the period. A pair of late penalty calls in the period put the Gophers on the defensive, but they would come away with a short-handed opportunity late with a shot from Sammy Walker sailing just wide of Wolverines net minder Strauss Mann.

Minnesota did not take long to answer coming out of the locker room for the third period, as Sheehy knocked home a rebound less than a minute into the action. Nanne collected his second assist of the game and Jack Sadek his second of the weekend on the score. Gates tipped home a shot by Sadek, with Rem Pitlick also tallying an assist on the game-winner.

Robson finished with a season-high 50 saves in a win for the Maroon & Gold, while Mann made 24 stops for Michigan in defeat.

Minnesota finished 0-for-1 on the power play while holding the Wolverines to 0-for-6 with the man advantage.

The Pride on Ice will return to 3M Arena at Mariucci later this month for a two-game, non-conference series with Ferris State.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY
MINNEAPOLIS — Taylor Heise scored two goals and Sydney Scobee earned a 30-save shutout as the No. 2 University of Minnesota women’s hockey team sealed a non-conference series sweep with a 5-0 win over visiting Robert Morris at Ridder Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Minnesota (17-2-1, 9-2-1-0 WCHA) received goals from Heise (2g), Kelly Pannek, Taylor Williamson, and Alex Woken along with two-point games from Emily Brown (2a) and Amy Potomak (2a). The Gophers outshot the Colonials 33-30 for the game as Lauren Bailey made 28 saves for Robert Morris (8-10-4, 6-1-1 CHA).

The Gophers took a 2-0 lead after period one on a pair of special teams goals. Heise put the Maroon & Gold on the board with a power-play goal at the 11:18 mark of the opening frame before Pannek scored her second short-handed goal of the season at the 14:44 mark.

The second period saw Minnesota extend its lead to three when A. Potomak intercepted a puck in the RMU zone and found Williamson in the slot. Williamson slid the puck past RMU’s Bailey for her sixth goal of the season with 9:09 remaining in the middle frame.

Woken scored her second goal of the series to put the Gophers up 4-0 just 1:39 into the third period when she poked through a rebound off a shot by A. Potomak, and Heise then sealed the win with her second tally of the game when she buried the rebound off a shot by Catie Skaja with five minutes remaining in the game.

The Gophers were one-for-three on the power play while holding Robert Morris scoreless on three power-play opportunities along with scoring one shorthanded goal.

Minnesota now has three weekends off from competition for the holiday break.

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