LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Mbakwe recorded his fourth double-double of the season, but it was his late defensive play that really stood out.
Mbakwe had 16 points and 12 rebounds as Minnesota rallied to beat DePaul 86-85 in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic on Thursday.
“He’s a world class athlete in any league, there’s no question about that,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.
Minnesota (5-0) also got 18 points from Rodney Williams. The Golden Gophers will play Indiana State, a 60-49 winner over Texas Tech, in a winner’s bracket game Friday.
“We’re happy to get the win,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “We’ve got to give a lot of credit to DePaul. They’re a team that’s scrappy and made shots.”
Brandon Young scored 23 points and Cleveland Melvin added 20 for DePaul (2-1), which will meet Texas Tech in a consolation game Friday.
Young hit a jumper to get DePaul within 84-83 with one minute left. After Minnesota’s Austin Hollins missed a 3 with the shot clock winding down, Melvin was called for charging into Mbakwe — who was playing with four fouls — with 13 seconds remaining while driving toward the basket.
“Coach’s been preaching, we want to take charges this year,” Mbakwe said. “I thought it was a great time. It was one of those last minute decisions … Do I risk it? I was in the right spot at the right time and was fortunate enough to take the charge. It was a big play.”
Williams had a key rebound basket, making it 86-83, after a pair of missed free throws by Julian Welch with 13 seconds left.
“We, certainly, much rather have Julian make those two free throws, but we’ll take it any you can get it,” Smith said.
Krys Faber had a rebound basket in the final second after DePaul’s Moses Morgan missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
Williams had a layup and Andre Ingram made two free throws as Minnesota, which trailed by as many as 12 points, went up 72-71 when 8:03 left. An in-close basket by Mbakwe extended the Golden Gophers’ lead to 76-73 at the 14-minute mark.
“I just thought they did a better job of taking the ball to the basket,” Purnell said of Minnesota during the second half. “I thought we did a poor job of getting back in transition. Then when they shot the ball, we never came up with the defensive board.”
Minnesota finished with 23 offensive rebounds.
The Golden Gophers took an 83-79 lead on Mbakwe’s slam with three minutes to go.
Baskets by Andre Hollins and Ralph Sampson III during the opening minute of the second half got Minnesota within 43-37.
After a DePaul timeout, Young responded with consecutive 3-point plays to put DePaul ahead 49-37.
After Minnesota made it 51-45, fast-break dunks by Charles McKinney and Melvin reinstated the Blue Demons’ 10-point lead.
Young and Melvin both had 10 points, helping DePaul take a 43-33 halftime advantage. While the Blue Demons went 5 of 10 from 3-point range, Minnesota missed all four of its attempts.
Young hit a 3 to put DePaul up 38-26 with 4 minutes left.
DePaul played its first game since Nov. 14 due to class schedules.
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