MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Freshman Amir Coffey scored 10 points, all in the second half, and Minnesota came from behind to beat Texas-Arlington 84-67 on Monday night.
Reggie Lynch, in his first year with Minnesota after transferring last season, scored 14 points. Jordan Murphy added 11 points and 12 rebounds and five Gophers in all scored in double figures.
“I think it just shows, we got a long way to go obviously, but this is not last year’s team,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “It’s very evident. It’s a totally different team with much more balance and depth.”
The Gophers (2-0) trailed the final eight minutes of the first half against the preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite Mavericks (1-1).
But Coffey and Lynch ignited Minnesota in the second half. Minnesota used a 22-1 run to take control as Texas-Arlington missed its first 12 shots of the half and had a scoring drought of over six minutes.
“We were just out there playing free and guarding the 3, which was the biggest problem in the first half,” Lynch said.
Jalen Jones scored 17 points and Erick Neal added 12 for Texas-Arlington. The Mavericks pulled out road wins at Ohio State and Memphis last season, and appeared primed to pull another upset against the Gophers.
Texas-Arlington hit 9 of 18 3-pointers in the first half but just one in the second half.
“I think our guys, to be honest, it looks to me like they lost a little bit of that chip on their shoulder, grit,” coach Scott Cross said. “It’s a learning lesson for us. I guess I’d rather learn a lesson now than in conference, and hopefully our guys will be better.”
Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks return all five starters from last season and are testing themselves with a tough nonconference schedule. When the shots were falling, Texas-Arlington showed it can still hang with major conference opponents.
Minnesota: The Gophers got the test coach Richard Pitino was seeking for his new-look squad. Coffey had eight of his points during Minnesota’s second-half run and added two steals. The 6-foot-10 Lynch gives the Gophers an option down low.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Mavericks led the nation in rebounding last year with an average of 43.71 per game. The Gophers had a 47-32 rebounding advantage on Monday and scored 22 points off offensive rebounds.
“Our guys have to change their mentality a little bit,” Cross said. “We have to get that hard-hat, blue-collar attitude that we had … to get outrebounded the way we did is disappointing.”
The game was bogged down at times due to personal fouls, particularly in the second half. Minnesota extended its lead from the free-throw line where it made 30 of its 40 attempts. The Mavericks went to the line 22 times, hitting 13 free throws.
“That’s got to be our identity,” Pitino said. “We may not be a 10-3s-a-game team. That’s OK, we can still win in other ways.”
Texas-Arlington’s three-game road trip continues at Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday and on to another major conference foe in Arkansas on Friday. Florida Gulf Coast will be playing only its second game of the season after opening with an 80-59 loss to Florida.
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