MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota had more than a week to try and bounce back from a rough three-game stretch that included a pair of road losses and a narrow one-point home win.
It seems the rest paid off for the Golden Gophers.
Jordan Murphy scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season to lift Minnesota to a 77-63 win over Oral Roberts on Thursday night.
Sophomore Amir Coffey chipped in 15 points and senior point guard Nate Mason scored 14 as the Golden Gophers (10-3) pulled away in the second half against the Golden Eagles (4-11).
“We’re slowly getting our confidence back, which is important,” said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino.
Oral Roberts forward Chris Miller scored a career-high 18 points. Minnesota struggled to defend the Golden Eagles big man, who shot 9 of 15 from the floor. Emmanuel Nzekwesi added 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Rebounds kept Oral Roberts in the game in the first half. Minnesota, ranked in the Top 25 earlier this year, led by just four points at halftime after getting outrebounded 22-19 in the first half.
A newfound confidence after the break helped Minnesota eventually coast to a 14-point win.
The Gophers used an 11-0 run early in the second half to grow their lead to double-digits. Murphy and Coffey scored all 11 points during that stretch. That was part of a larger 23-4 run that resulted in a 20-point advantage.
“Coach was really stressing us about our physicality on the boards,” said Murphy, the nation’s leading rebounder, who had just three boards in the first half. “I think that’s what really got the run going.”
Murphy has a double-double in each of Minnesota’s games this season, yet it looked in doubt early. But he grabbed his 10th rebound late in the second half before heading to the bench with the game in hand.
“I was really biting my nails on that one,” Murphy said.
Minnesota was without starting guard Dupree McBrayer, who missed the game with a lower leg injury. McBrayer is averaging 8.2 points and a team-high 2.9 assists per game. Pitino said McBrayer is day-to-day.
The Gophers have been one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 42.7 rebounds per game, but were outrebounded by Oral Roberts 45-41. Both teams converted their offensive boards into 17 points.
Yet that wasn’t enough for the Golden Eagles, who lost by double figures for the third straight game.
“Credit to them, they turned up some pressure and were able to translate it into easier buckets,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers needed a game like this after a pair of non-conference losses and a narrow one-point win over Drake. Minnesota’s players were well-rested after playing for the first time in 10 days.
Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles dropped their second straight game and now enter Summit League play with a 4-11 record.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
With an offensive rebound and putback early in the second half, Murphy notched the 1,000th point of his career. He became the 42nd player in Minnesota history to do so.
Gophers sophomore forward Michael Hurt made the first start of his career Thursday, filling in for the injured McBrayer. Hurt played a career-high 26 minutes and had 10 points, including an emphatic second-half dunk.
Minnesota continues its non-conference schedule on Saturday when it hosts Florida Atlantic.
Oral Roberts has a weeklong break before hosting Omaha on Dec. 30.
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