|Murphy, No. 15 Minnesota set sights on Niagara|
Minnesota junior forward Jordan Murphy, after a season-opening 92-77 win Friday night over USC Upstate in which he went off for a career-high 35 points and 15 rebounds, talked about the balance of his team's starting lineup.
"We have so many weapons that it will be hard for people to guard us," he said. "Anyone can get hot at any minute."
Murphy was again the hottest of the Golden Gophers on Monday night at Providence, recording 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds as the nation's 15th-ranked team notched an impressive 86-74 verdict over the Friars.
But if Niagara, which Minnesota hosts on Wednesday night, feels like it can just key on Murphy and take its chances with the rest of the lineup, it might learn differently.
Point guard Nate Mason rebounded from a 10-point outing against USC Upstate with 17 points, shooting guard Amir Coffey registered 15 points and center Reggie Lynch was in double figures for the second straight game with 12.
The Golden Gophers (2-0) shot nearly 51 percent from the field, won the rebounding battle 38-31 and committed only 12 turnovers against a good opponent on its floor. It was the kind of win that not only resonates now, but could pay dividends come March.
"I definitely like the resistance," Murphy said. "It's definitely something that makes you stay on your toughness. That's to their credit. They brought that out of us and we played like a team and we were tough together. We're hard to stop when that happens."
Minnesota will be hard to stop for a couple of weeks, until it takes on Alabama and Miami in consecutive non-conference games that will provide meaningful tests.
The Golden Gophers can score from all five spots in their starting lineup, and highly-touted freshman guard Isaiah Washington came off the bench at Providence to score eight points in 21 minutes. That's an indication he might be over the nerves that sabotaged his game against USC Upstate, against which he made just 1 of 9 shots.
Niagara (1-0) opened its season Friday night with an impressive 77-75 win at St. Bonaventure, which is expected to challenge for the Atlantic 10 Conference title. Its backcourt of Kahlil Dukes and Matt Scott combined for 41 points, with Dukes stroking six 3-pointers and scoring 23 points.
Scott added eight rebounds and four assists for the Purple Eagles, who were tabbed for a fifth-place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference under fifth-year coach Chris Casey. Niagara's 10 victories last season were its most in Casey's tenure.
All five starters returned for the Purple Eagles, a welcome change from the transition that's ravaged the program. A whopping 20 players exited the program from Casey's arrival before the 2013-14 season through last season.
"It's the first time we've had some carryover and haven't had to replace a large piece of the roster," Casey said. "Transfers really hurt us."
To have a chance at pulling off the upset, Niagara will have to get a big game from Dukes and Scott, and find some way to compete inside with Murphy and Lynch.