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Watson lifts Nebraska over No. 14 Minnesota 78-64

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Glynn Watson Jr. was coming off a miserable game, with six points on 2-of-11 shooting in a loss to No. 3 Michigan State. He got back on track Tuesday night.

Watson scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half and Nebraska opened up a 16-point lead early in the second half en route to a 78-68 win over No. 14 Minnesota.

“This is all-conference Glynn, right?,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “He did a great job all night. … He was really determined the whole day and yesterday. I don’t think he felt good watching tape of Michigan State. It wasn’t anything new or different. It was just Glynn.”

Watson scored seven straight points to open the second half, and Duby Okeke’s dunk put Nebraska (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) up 48-32 with 15:35 left.

Minnesota (8-2, 1-1) made two of its first 10 shots in the half and struggled against the Huskers’ switching man-to-man defense.

Minnesota cut the lead to 67-53 after two free throws by Nate Mason with 4:37 left, but James Palmer Jr.’s 3 put Nebraska up by 17.

The Gophers forced a pair of turnovers, hit three 3-pointers in the final three minutes, and Reggie Lynch’s dunk with 1:01 left cut the lead to 72-64. Watson and Isaac Copeland made 6 of 8 free throws in the final minute to seal it.

“They just played better than we did and when we need to get stops, we couldn’t,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “Offensively, obviously, we didn’t have it going. If you don’t have it going offensively, you’ve got to get stops and get out on the break. We did not do that. Credit to them.”

Watson downplayed his scoring, crediting the win to good team play, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

“It felt good,” Watson said. “We just executed our stuff and played good defense. That’s what we need to start doing. We got a good win.”

Using an aggressive, double-teaming defense, the Huskers held Big Ten scoring leader Jordan Murphy to 10 points, 11 below his season average, and held high-scoring Minnesota 21 points below its season average.

“I thought we played really hard tonight, too,” Miles said. “You cannot let them get going inside or they’ll brutalize you. I thought our guys did a really, really good job.”

Mason led Minnesota with 20 points, and Amir Coffey had 17 points.

Copeland finished with 12 points for Nebraska and Palmer had 11 points.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota missed six shots to open both halves. The Gophers hit just 32 percent of their shots Tuesday. They entered averaging 49 percent shooting.

Nebraska, an up-and-down shooting team, hit 47 percent of its shots, 57 percent in the second half. The Huskers shot just 27 percent in their 86-57 loss at Michigan State on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Nebraska travels to Omaha on Saturday to meet intrastate rival Creighton, which dropped out of the AP Top 25 after being ranked for one week.

Minnesota is at Arkansas on Saturday to play its second road contest and third game of the week.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Four Takeaways from No. 10 Miami’s win at No. 12 Minnesota

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After beginning the season with five consecutive wins, the toughest of which coming against La Salle in Lonnie Walker IV’s “homecoming,” No. 10 Miami was going to answer some questions about itself one way or another in Wednesday’s game at No. 12 Minnesota. The Hurricanes passed that test, beating the Golden Gophers 86-81 behind a balanced offensive effort in which Jim Larrañaga’s team found its way into the paint for much of the night.

1. Miami’s perimeter options make the Hurricanes a nightmare to defend.

This group of Hurricanes isn’t as experienced across the board as Larrañaga’s best teams at Miami have been, but what they do share with those teams is having a host of options capable of breaking down defenses off the dribble. JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown Jr., Chris Lykes and the aforementioned Walker are all capable of making plays, either for themselves or their teammates. Miami was able to break down the Minnesota defense on a consistent basis, either by using the dribble to beat a defender straight-up or in ball-screen actions.

The Hurricanes shot 50.7 percent from the field and 10-for-25 from three, with many of those looks coming by way of dribble penetration that opened up shooters such as Brown, Anthony Lawrence II and D.J. Vasiljevic. To make plays offensively against the teams Miami beat for its first five wins is one thing; to go on the road in a tough environment against a quality opponent and do it is another.

2. The value of Dupree McBrayer was evident in Minnesota’s first defeat of the year.

This was part of the reason why Miami was so successful with its dribble penetration. With McBrayer, who was sidelined with a right leg injury, out of the lineup Minnesota went up against a team loaded with quality ball-handlers without an athletic off-guard who at 6-foot-5 has some size to him as well. Isaiah Washington made his first collegiate start as a result, and while the focus of some may be the freshman’s off shooting night (6-for-17 FG, 14 points) what Minnesota lost defensively was of even greater importance.

McBrayer’s a solid defender, and his versatility offensively — as he can operate either with or without the ball in his hands — makes the junior a valuable member of Richard Pitino’s rotation. It was clear that Minnesota missed McBrayer’s presence, especially when Miami was able to get rolling offensively via dribble penetration.

3. Dewan Huell continues to build on his positive start to the season.

With his 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting Huell, a McDonald’s All-American out of high school, scored in double figures for the sixth consecutive game this season. By comparison, as a freshman the 6-foot-11 Miami native reached double figures six times the entire season. With his athleticism Huell was able to finish multiple pick and roll actions above the rim, and despite the low rebound total (two) he more than held his own against the Minnesota tandem of Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch.

Huell’s play throughout the night afforded Miami the luxury of being able to devote more defensive attention to Murphy, who still went off for 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks (he’s that damn good). Miami shaded its defense towards Murphy for much of the night, and while he still got his Minnesota’s experienced front court tandem was not able to dominate the game. Lynch added 12 points, ten rebounds and seven blocked shots in a solid effort.

4. The Big Ten really needed Minnesota to come through.

With its win at Providence and Saturday’s neutral site win over Alabama, Minnesota’s got some quality results on its early-season résumé. As for the rest of the Big Ten outside of Michigan State and Purdue? Not so much, with Maryland having two wins over KenPom Top 100 teams in Butler and Bucknell. And given how much the Big Ten has struggled in this edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Minnesota finding a way to come back and defend its home court would have provided a needed boost in what has been a rough week for the Big Ten.

Minnesota will be fine; Washington and Nate Mason should get more comfortable sharing the court as two primary ball-handlers and McBrayer’s eventual return will help as well. But a team that’s gotten off to a good start to the season could have given its slumping conference a much-needed boost by beating a Miami team that at minimum has the look of an ACC title contender.

Wild sequence caps 1st half of Miami-Minnesota game

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The Big Ten/ACC Challenge hasn’t been all that close, with the ACC holding a 9-1 lead going into the late games on Wednesday’s schedule. No. 10 Miami looked to extend the ACC’s lead with a win at No. 12 Minnesota, but the two ranked teams would play the first half to a tie.

Two highlight-worthy plays ended the half, the first being Miami’s Dewan Huell throwing down a powerful dunk on Minnesota big man Reggie Lynch.

Minnesota would strike back on the other end of the floor, with Amir Coffey pulling a Blake Hoffarber and making a basket while seated on the Williams Arena court. The teams would go into the half tied at 36.

Murphy’s double-double leads Minnesota over Alabama A&M

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jordan Murphy had his fifth straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds as No. 14 Minnesota defeated Alabama A&M 100-57 on Tuesday night.

Four other scored in double figures for the Gophers (5-0). Davonte Fitzgerald had 13, Nate Mason scored 12 and Reggie Lynch and Jamir Harris each added 11.

Mohamed Sherif led the Bulldogs (0-4) with 10 points.

The Bulldogs went the first 11 minutes without a two-point field goal, preferring outside shots due to the Gophers’ size advantage. A&M’s first four baskets came from 3-point range, but Minnesota built a 26-12 lead thanks to 12 quick points from Mason.

In the last minute of the first half, reserve big man Fitzgerald threw down a dunk and drained a long jump shot for the Gophers before Murphy beat the buzzer with a step-back jumper to put Minnesota on top 47-25.

Harris, a freshman guard, hit 3-pointers from the same spot in the corner on three consecutive possessions in the second half as Gophers coach Richard Pitino played his reserves almost exclusively for the final 10 minutes of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama A&M: Coming off a 2-27 season, the Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. They were no match for a Minnesota team expected to contend for a Big Ten title.

Minnesota: The Gophers got what they needed out of this game. Everyone stayed healthy, the reserves got extended playing time, and the starters weren’t overtaxed with back-to-back games coming up this weekend.

UP NEXT

Alabama A&M: Travels to Niagara Falls, New York, for the final rounds of the Barclays Center Classic. The Bulldogs take on Niagara on Friday and will play either Western Carolina or UT-Arlington on Saturday.

Minnesota: Travels to Brooklyn to wrap up the other half of the Barclays Center Classic bracket. The Gophers play UMass on Friday and No. 25 Alabama on Saturday.

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

No 14 Minnesota makes early statement at Providence

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While No. 2 Michigan State is viewed as the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten, and rightfully so, the Spartans will not lack for competition in the title race. One team capable of challenging the Spartans is No. 14 Minnesota, and Monday night in his return to his alma mater Richard Pitino’s team put together a solid second half showing in its 86-74 win at Providence.

The biggest difference for Minnesota in the second half was their improved offensive execution, as forward Jordan Murphy had a big night with 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way. After getting off to a quick start, racing out to a 12-2 lead, Minnesota got a bit stagnant offensively. They took challenged shots, and as a result the Golden Gophers trailed at the half by three and had just one assist on 13 made baskets.

With improved execution and a more concerted effort to truly attack the Providence defense, Minnesota shot nearly 61 percent from the field and made four of its seven three-point attempts in the final 20 minutes. And thanks in large part to the tandem of Murphy and Reggie Lynch, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds, Minnesota was able to take advantage of its experience advantage in the front court.

It wasn’t all about the big men either, as Amir Coffey got going in the second half and finished with 15 points, Nate Mason tallied 17 and Dupree McBrayer and Isaiah Washington added nine and eight points, respectively.

Minnesota has the talent needed to be a player both within the Big Ten and nationally, especially as lead guards Mason and Washington get more comfortable sharing the playmaking responsibilities when Pitino calls upon that lineup. But the key to Minnesota making good on that promise will be to stay aggressive offensively while not settling for forced shots. That was an issue in the first half as Providence, a good team in its own right, made its run to pull ahead.

Kyron Cartwright dished out seven assists without a turnover in the the first stanza as Providence relied on a balanced offensive effort, and players such as sophomore Alpha Diallo, freshman Nate Watson and junior Isaiah Jackson took advantage. Yet despite doing their best to hang around Providence’s youth inside, especially with senior Emmitt Holt still out after undergoing abdominal surgery, was exposed by the more experienced Minnesota front line.

After playing a bit lax offensively Minnesota refocused in the second half, and the end result was a quality win that will only increase in value as the season wears on.

Minnesota forward Eric Curry will miss the season with a knee injury

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Minnesota will be without sophomore forward Eric Curry this season as the school announced a season-ending knee injury. The 6-foot-9 Curry suffered a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus tear and will have surgery.

“Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, and we are certainly disheartened by the news,” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said in a release. “Eric had a tremendous summer, but I am positive he will continue to get better as he recovers from this setback.”

Curry was a key reserve during his freshman season with the Golden Gophers last season as he averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per contest. Playing some of his best basketball against NCAA tournament teams like Purdue and Michigan during Big Ten play, Curry will be missed in Minnesota’s rotation as they try to compete for a conference title after last season’s surprising tournament bid.

Minnesota still returns all of last season’s key pieces outside of Akeem Springs, as they are currently ranked No. 13 in the NBCSports.com preseason top 25, but Curry had the potential to be an impact player during his sophomore season.