MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joey King wasn’t happy about missing the last eight minutes of the first half. But he made good use of his time on the bench.
King hit four second-half 3-pointers and finished with 18 points to help Minnesota hold off Nebraska-Omaha 93-90 on Friday.
The senior forward is Minnesota’s leading scorer, but when he picked up his second foul with 7:25 to play in the first half, he found himself on the bench for the rest of the half.
“I was a little frustrated with that,” King said, who took just two shots in the first half. “But having to sit those last eight minutes I was able to watch the game and see what was going on. They were playing tough in the post, slapping down, and that’s when I realized if we maybe ran some plays where we freed up some space, I’d find some open 3s.”
King hit all four 3-pointers he took in the second half, including one that rolled around the rim before dropping through to put Minnesota ahead 80-75 with five minutes to play.
Bakary Konate added 14 points with 10 rebounds_both career highs_for the Golden Gophers (4-2). Carlos Morris scored 17 points, Nate Mason added 16 and freshman Jordan Murphy chipped in 14.
Jake White scored 23 points to lead Omaha (3-3). Tre’Shawn Thurman added 16 points and 10 rebounds, but missed a chance to tie the game in a wild finish.
Minnesota led 90-83 with 2:00 to play, but the Golden Gophers missed 5 of 8 free throws in the final 25 seconds and the Mavericks took advantage. Down by two points in the final 10 seconds, Thurman came up empty on a drive to the hoop, and Murphy grabbed the rebound for Minnesota.
“It was just a bang-bang play,” Thurman said. “It kind of came out of my hand short.”
The Mavericks, who are in just their fourth year of Division I play out of the Summit League, blew a halftime lead in a loss at Colorado on Sunday. They took little consolation in making another big school work hard for a win on Friday.
“Do we feel good about being close? No,” head coach Derrin Hansen said. “But we can sure build upon it, and we’re trying to be as good as we can be come January 1 when we start the league.”
Omaha capitalized on turnovers on Minnesota’s first two possessions en route to a quick 8-0 lead. Minnesota took its first lead on Mason’s 3-pointer to make it 28-27. The teams kept it close the rest of the first half, with Omaha leading 42-41 at the break.
Minnesota: The Gophers were playing their first home game since going 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. They lost to Temple, beat Missouri State and lost to Texas Tech.
Nebraska-Omaha: Mavericks guard JT Gibson is Minnesota’s reigning Mr. Basketball. The freshman led Champlin Park High School to the state’s big-school championship game last year. On Friday he scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench.
Gibson isn’t the only Minnesotan on Omaha’s roster. White, a native of nearby Chaska, had a raucous cheering section on hand to watch him come within two points of his career high in his first game at Minnesota’s venerable Williams Arena. “It was awesome,” White said. “The Barn is an incredible place to play.”
ON THE RISE
Konate, a 6-foot-11 sophomore from Mali, missed six weeks this fall with a stress fracture in his foot. Pitino said he’s finally getting back into playing shape and the results are showing.
“We’re really high on him,” Pitino said. “I said when he got hurt, he’s the type of guy who needs to play basketball every day, just because he hasn’t played basketball for a long time. Now that he’s been back getting reps daily, he’s been successful.”
Minnesota hosts Clemson on Monday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Nebraska-Omaha hosts Eastern Michigan on Tuesday.
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