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Gophers basketball shakes off turnovers, wins opening game at Vancouver Showcase, 69-64 over Texas Aamp;M

November 19, 2018

VANCOUVER - Amir Coffey crossed over one defender and tried to dribble behind his back to avoid another Sunday night, but the end result was another lost possession.

It only took one half for the Gophers mens basketball team to set a season-high with 16 turnovers in the opening game of the Vancouver Showcase against Texas AM.

You wouldnt be able to tell from the frustrated look on Richard Pitinos face walking off the court at halftime, but his team was ahead by 10 points.

As sloppy as the offensive execution looked at times Sunday with lack of ball movement and over dribbling, the Gophers leaned on their defense to pull out a hard-fought 69-64 victory Sunday.

Amir Coffey hit five free throws in the last 1:29 to pull out the comeback win for the Gophers (3-0), who wore new black uniforms for the game. Coffey finished with 12 points but had six turnovers. Jordan Murphy had a team-high 14 points.

The Aggies (1-3), who lost to UC Irvine at home last week, werent supposed to be Minnesotas toughest opponent in the Vancouver Showcase. That bigger challenge appeared to be coming Wednesday against Pac-12 title contender Washington.

Brandon Mahans dunk off the 20th turnover for the Gophers tied the game

Pitino saw his team outscored 24-9 during a stretch were the Aggies turned the tables on Minnesota defensively with a zone. In a win against Utah last week, Gabe Kalscheurs outside shooting was the answer.

Kalscheur had a three-pointer fall short with under two minutes left, but Jordan Murphy was fouled on the offensive rebound. Free throws from Murphy and Coffey on the next possession gave Minnesota a slight 66-64 advantage.

It was a one-point game after the first 6 1/2 minutes when Minnesota used a 14-0 run to take a 21-7 lead on a two-handed slam from Matz Stockman over a couple Texas AM defenders.

Jordan Murphy and Brock Stull nailed back-to-back three-pointers during the rally. It was Murphys first shot from beyond the arc this season. Stull hadnt played in the previous game, so clearly the Gophers were getting unexpected contributions early.

Eight different players scored in the first half, but the Gophers just couldnt pull away. Whether from an errant pass, mishandled loose ball or rebound it was never pretty on both ends.

Pitino switched his defenses, though, trying to keep the Aggies (X-X) from finding any rhythm offensively. Minnesota used man-to-man, zone and even a three-quarter court press to disrupt its Southeastern Conference foe. Both teams combined for 26 turnovers in the first half.

Still, it was typical for the Gophers to have trouble holding onto a lead. In the first two games, they fell behind in the first half to Omaha and Utah. Pitinos team even saw a 15-point lead cut down to a two possession game late in the second half of the nine-point win against the Utes a week ago.

Having faced that adversity before the Gophers had the confidence to respond when Texas AM pushed them Sunday night.

Brandon Mahans three-pointer from the deep corner made it 41-36 early in the second half. To make matters worse, Murphy had to sit with three fouls. Who would Minnesota turn to for a spark?

The answer was a combined effort from the bench. Stull, Isaiah Washington and Jarvis Omersa helped extend it to a 12-point advantage before the Aggies made one last run to get within striking distance.

The last time both programs met Minnesota was ranked No. 22 and fell 66-65 to Texas AM in the 76 Classic in Anaheim in 2009.

Texas AM played without senior guard Admon Gilder (hamstring, knee) for the fourth straight game.

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