Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy (3) puts down a rebound against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Minneapolis. Minnesota defeated Rutgers 88-70. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

MEN’S BASKETBALL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota’s defense sparked its fast-break offense in time for the Gophers to pull away from Rutgers on Saturday.

Amir Coffey scored 29 points to lead a balanced scoring attack as Minnesota defeated Rutgers 88-70.

Jordan Murphy scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Dupree McBrayer scored 15 points and added 10 assists, and freshman Gabe Kalscheur scored 11 points for Minnesota (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten), who put the game away with a 14-1 run midway through the second half.

Myles Johnson scored a career-high 13 and Geo Baker also scored 13 points for the Scarlet Knights (8-7, 1-4), who were playing without their leading scorer and rebounder, Eugene Omoruyi, who was out with a knee injury.

“We’re down a lot of players, but no excuse — you’ve still got to take away the strength of another team,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “Their two biggest strengths were getting to the free throw line and transition, and we didn’t do a great job taking away either.”

Rutgers pulled to within five at multiple points in the second half but the Gophers finally pulled away with a 14-1 run that started when backup guard Isaiah Washington banked in a 3-pointer.

Minnesota’s defense then set up a number of fast-break opportunities that the Gophers cashed in on the other end. McBrayer rebounded a Rutgers miss and sprung Coffey for a coast-to-coast dunk. On the next possession, Murphy and center Daniel Oturu each blocked shots before Murphy fed the ball ahead to Washington for a transition layup.

Finally, on the next possession, after Murphy blocked another shot, Coffey grabbed the rebound and took it straight to the hoop on the other end, drawing a foul and making both free throws.

“Murphy and Dan were protecting the rim pretty well,” Coffey said. “Just protecting the rim like that lets us get out in transition, and we’re always pretty good when we’re working that.”

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said that stretch typifies how he wants his team to play.

“The key is always to defend, rebound, and then run,” Pitino said. “That’s always been our mentality, and the better we get defensively, it allows us to get out on the break.”

After scoring just eight points in the first half, Coffey exploded for nine in the first six minutes of the second half. He finished the day 10-for-14 from the field — including 9-for-10 from inside the 3-point line — and made 8 of 10 free throws. Coffey is averaging 23.4 points in Minnesota’s five conference games this year.

“Amir’s playing like one of the better players in the league right now,” Pitino said. “I always expected this year to be a breakout year for him and he’s certainly making it that.”

But Rutgers stayed in the game thanks in large part to the play of their big men. Johnson, a 6-foot-10 freshman, and 6-9 Shaq Carter went toe-to-toe with Murphy, the nation’s second-leading rebounder at 12.0 boards per game. Johnson pulled down eight rebounds while Carter added eight points and six boards, part of the 40 points Rutgers scored in the paint.

“We’re definitely down a couple guys,” Johnson said. “But the next man up is going to be ready to step up, and I’m trying to do my best to step up.”

In the end, it wasn’t enough to slow Minnesota in the second half when the Golden Gophers took control on both ends of the court.

“No matter what happened down the stretch, even if they made a couple of shots we were able to answer back and get a few stops and get a few rebounds we really needed,” Murphy said.

BIG PICTURE

Rugters: The Scarlet Knights had a tough task in trying to build off the momentum of their upset victory over Ohio State on Wednesday. Omoruyi dislocated his left kneecap in that game, and his productivity and veteran presence were missed on Saturday. To make matters worse, the Scarlet Knights also lost freshman guard Caleb McConnell to an apparent leg injury in the first half.

Minnesota: The Gophers were looking to improve on their dismal showing at the line in their loss to Maryland on Tuesday, when they made just 9 of 23 free throws. On Saturday they went 20-for-25 to at least temporarily put those concerns to rest. Meanwhile, Murphy passed Draymond Green to become the fourth-leading rebounder in Big Ten history.

UP NEXT
Rutgers: at Purdue on Tuesday
Minnesota: at Illinois on Wednesday


WOMEN’S HOCKEY
MANKATO, Minn. — Alex Woken led the way with three points and Grace Zumwinkle scored two goals as the No. 2 Golden Gopher women’s hockey team earned a 6-3 win and series sweep over Minnesota State at the Verizon Center in Mankato, Minn., on Saturday afternoon.

Minnesota (21-2-1, 11-2-1-0 WCHA) extended its winning streak to 14 consecutive games with the win over the Mavericks. Five different players scored for the Maroon & Gold and 11 different Gophers recorded at least one point led by multiple points from Woken (1g-2a), Zumwinkle (2g), and Taylor Heise (2a). Sydney Scobee improved to 6-2-1 with 23 saves on 26 shots faced.

Minnesota State (8-10-4, 3-9-2-1 WCHA) received goals from Jordan McLaughlin, Brooke Bryant, and Brittyn Fleming along with a 28-save effort from goaltender Abigail Levy.

The Gophers took a 2-0 lead after the first period as Taylor Williamson scored her ninth goal of the year before Zumwinkle put one in with just 0.4 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

Period two saw Abigail Boreen extend the Maroon & Gold lead to three before a pair of quick goals from the Mavericks cut the lead to one at 3-1. However, Woken pushed Minnesota’s lead back to two with her eighth tally of the season in the final three minute of the period to put the Gophers on top 4-2 after 40 minutes.

In the third period, Zumwinkle scored her second of the game, netting a power-play goal at the 7:59 mark of the period to make it 5-2, but MSU again came within two on a goal by Fleming midway through the final stanza. However, Amy Potomak netted her second of the series to seal the 6-3 win with just under seven minutes remaining.

For the game, both teams were one-for-two on the power play. Minnesota had 34-26 advantage in shots on goal despite being outshot 17-6 during the second period.

Minnesota returns home to Ridder Arena to host Wisconsin in the second Border Battle series of the season next week. Puck drop is set for 7:07 p.m. CT Friday, Jan. 18.


MEN’S HOCKEY
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Blake McLaughlin found the net with 7.8 seconds left in regulation to give the Gopher Hockey program a 2-1 win over No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday night and lock up Minnesota’s first series sweep under Bob Motzko.

McLaughlin netted both winning goals in the sweep for the Maroon & Gold – his first two collegiate goals – after tallying the eventual game winner in Friday’s 5-1 win over the Irish.

Minnesota (9-8-4 overall, 6-3-3-0 Big Ten) found another stellar performance on the other end of the ice from Mat Robson in goal. The junior netminder picked up his third-straight win against the No. 9 team in the nation, making 34 saves to improve to 7-4-4 on the season. Over the last three games, Robson has made 104 saves on 107 shots.

Notre Dame (12-8-1, 5-6-0-0) jumped out to an early lead when Jack Jenkins scored his third of the year at 7:29 of the first period – Robson’s only blemish on the night.

The Maroon & Gold answered back in the second when Brannon McManus notched a power-play goal at 10:47 off assists from Tyler Sheehy and Rem Pitlick. McManus, who tallied a goal and an assist on Friday, picked up his eighth goal of the year to set a new career best.

After exchanging goals over the first 40 minutes of play, it looked like the series finale was heading to overtime until Sheehy sprung McLaughlin loose on a partial breakaway in the game’s final seconds. McLaughlin’s game winner officially was scored at 19:52 of the third period as the Gophers closed out the series for their first sweep since taking a pair of road wins from Wisconsin on Feb. 9-10, 2018.

The Gophers were outshot 26-35 in the contest, going 1-for-5 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Minnesota was 4-for-4 on the penalty kill in the series.

Minnesota continues the 2018-19 campaign with a two-game Big Ten series at Michigan State next weekend.

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