There were some early jitters for the Gophers in their season-opener, but they eventually found a groove.
Minnesota shot 63 percent behind strong performances from guards Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer. They boasted balanced scoring with four players in double figures during Tuesday’s 104-76 win.
Amir Coffey scored 18 points and added four assists. Daniel Oturu was showing dominating potential on both ends, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight boards. Dupree McBrayer also added 17 points, headlined by five made three-pointers.
Omaha’s Zach Jackson and Wanjang Tut each hit three-pointers to fuel an early 14-2 run that pulled the Mavericks ahead, 19-18. The Gophers went almost four minutes without a single field goal as poor ball movement and stagnant possessions slowed things down. This was a theme throughout first ten minutes as Minnesota had five quick turnovers in the first 14 minutes. Many of the possessions featured poor passes or sloppy dribbling. The Gophers didn’t get started until they got on the run or hit the post to convert easy baskets. Minnesota had 28 points off fast break situations and the majority of them came in the final minutes of the first half.
During several of the early offensive ruts, point guard Isaiah Washington’s passing helped lift Minnesota. He directed the offense well, including two great passes to Matz Stockman for easy finishes. One of the areas he needed to improve this season was his passing ability. Washington flashed it the entire night, setting up opportunities for low post players and three-point shooters. He had 11 assists and just four points in 24 minutes. Washington looked really disciplined within the offense and played more natural in the system.
Minnesota went on a 12-0 run to end the first half as Daniel Oturu had two slick moves in the post and an emphatic block that fueled a transition opportunity. He is a force around the rim on both ends and could be dominant if he can develop a mid-range jumper. When he wasn’t on the floor, Matz Stockman was a pleasant surprise and had several tough baskets around the rim. He will be a significant upgrade at the backup center position because of his post moves and underrated defensive skills around the rim.
Dupree McBrayer looks smooth on the offensive end and hit a few shots off multiple ball reversals. He was also active on the defensive end and picked up a notable steal and easy transition basket. If he can re-emerge as a three-point shooting threat, it adds another dimension to the Minnesota offense. He drilled five of his six tries from behind the arch in Tuesday night’s game. McBrayer battled injuries for the majority of last season and it clearly impacted his performance. Last year, he shot just 34.3 percent from three-point land and showed signs of returning to form in this game. If he can shoot in the 40 percent threshold, it would be a huge lift to Minnesota’s offense.
Amir Coffey looked very comfortable at the point guard position and is a major threat when attacking off the dribble. If he faces contact inside, he has the length to absorb defenders and finish at the rim. Coffey also has the ability to attack off the dribble and set up his teammates. As always, he was dynamic in transition and delivered fantastic passes on the run. Minnesota also showed hints of setting a high off ball screen and allowing Coffey to peel for easy baskets. Coffey looks natural in the point guard role and is a tough matchup for teams because of his slashing ability and passing skills.
Freshman Gabe Kalschuer also hit several threes and scored eight points as he rotated into the mix with Washington, Coffey and McBrayer at the guard spots. Jarvis Omersa, the final player in the freshman trio, flashed late in the game with several thunderous dunks. He showed off all of his athleticism and potential as a cutter down the baseline.
Jordan Murphy added another double-double and quietly made a huge impact as a passer. He had five assists and can set others up when flashing to the high-post. Murphy didn’t hit many of his long jumpers in this game and had four turnovers. However, he was relatively efficient around the rim and started a new double-double streak by posting 12 points and ten rebounds in 23 minutes.
Between veterans like Coffey, McBrayer and Murphy, along with contributions by big-man Daniel Oturu and guard Gabe Kalschuer, the Gophers have balance. Isaiah Washington also was fantastic as a passer and helped the Gophers achieve offensive flow and ball movement throughout the game. When Eric Curry returns next month, they will have even more flexibility down low, especially considering the rise of backup center Matz Stockman.
Minnesota received strong play from key contributors, along with several of their young additions. As the group continues to gain chemistry, it will be fascinating to watch them grow and develop.
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball