Minnesota hits from 3 to beat Louisiana-Lafayette in opener

Published 11:47 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nate Mason had 15 points and seven assists, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers had five players score in double figures in an 86-74 victory on Friday against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Dupree McBrayer added 15 points for Minnesota, which made 10 3-pointers and shot 40 percent from long distance. Amir Coffey, part of a three-guard starting unit with Mason and McBrayer, scored 13 points.

“We have a more complete team,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “I think that’s very, very evident when you look at our guys. It’s got a lot of balance. They’re good kids, they want to win. They want to get people talking good about them. Hopefully tonight helped that.”

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Bryce Washington scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds for the Ragin Cajuns, who couldn’t stay with the Gophers while shooting 31.9 percent from the field. 

Minnesota committed 19 turnovers to 15 for Louisiana-Lafayette and was outrebounded 42-39, but the Gophers were helped with an efficient shooting attack from the outside to lead by as many as 27 in the game.

The Cajuns closed to 11 near the end of the first half, but Minnesota scored the final 11 points of the half, including a buzzer-beating 3 by Mason.

“You can see from all the new guys that they bring a different dimension to the team.” Mason said. “Once we get comfortable in the season, I feel like these guys are going to produce.”

Big picture

Louisiana-Lafayette: Trying to replace 66.2 percent of their scoring last season, the opener against a Big Ten opponent was unkind to the Cajuns. They shot just 27.5 percent from the field and were just 5 of 17 from 3 (29.4 percent) in the first half. Washington, one of the three returning starters, didn’t attempt a field goal in the first half. Freshman Justin Miller came off the bench to score 21 points.

Minnesota: The Gophers had a balanced effort as they try to discover their core this season with several new players joining coach Richard Pitino’s team. Coffey was the Minnesota Mr. Basketball last season. Center Reggie Lynch finally played his first game with the Gophers after transferring from Illinois State last season. Akeem Springs, a transfer from Milwaukee, had 11 points and hit three 3s off the bench.

High on Coffey

Coffey made his much-anticipated debut. Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball last season, the freshman was 3 of 5 shooting and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-8, 195-pound guard had three assists and four turnovers. But just one turnover came in the second half.

“I think he just adds a very difficult dimension for teams from a defensive side of it, from how they want to guard him, because he’s so tall and he’s such a skilled passer, and he really moves well,” Pitino said.

Getting exposure

Louisiana-Lafayette was also breaking in several new players. To end the second half, the Cajuns had three freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on the court.

“We’ve just got some growing pains that we’re going to have to fight through, especially with the foul trouble,” Marlin said. “We couldn’t make 3s and just struggled first time out for a lot of these kids.”

After 12 turnovers in the first half, Louisiana-Lafayette had just three in the second half. The Cajuns also posted 20 offensive rebounds.

Up next

Louisiana-Lafayette’s inexperienced roster will get used to playing on the road. The Cajuns start the season with two road games for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they play at Montana State on Nov. 14.

Minnesota’s home-heavy schedule against smaller schools continues Nov. 14 against Texas-Arlington. In all, the Gophers play their first six games at home and 12 of the first 14 at Williams Arena.