McBrayer scores 18 as Minnesota overpowers Georgia Southern
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Richard Pitino called his team’s 37-point win over Georgia Southern a “major step forward,” but not because of the point total. It was more how his players shared the ball against their overmatched nonconference opponents.
Dupree McBrayer scored 18 points and Akeem Springs added 16 off the bench to lead the Gophers over Georgia Southern 86-49 on Friday night for their third straight win.
Minnesota (9-1) had 23 assists and 12 3-pointers — both season highs, and Pitino said his players were passing up good shots for great ones. And with three more games before the Big Ten portion of Minnesota’s schedule starts, the Gophers got back on track after barely surviving against New Jersey Institute of Technology earlier in the week.
“He sat us down and told us we need to improve,” Nate Mason said of the NJIT scare. Mason finished with 14 points and nine assists. “Obviously we disrespected each other, not even him, but just each other. Didn’t go out there and play for each other as hard as we possibly could. So we sat the guys down had a team meeting and said, ‘We’ve got to come in and work the next day.’”
Minnesota used an early second-half run to put the Eagles away after letting them hang around earlier. The Gophers built an 18-point lead midway through the first half before failing to score a field goal in the final five minutes of the half.
But they took advantage of their speed and size to start the second, scoring 12 of their first 16 points of the half on dunks and fast breaks.
“I keep telling the guys: defend, rebound and run,” Pitino said. “That’s always kind of been my mentality with these guys. They did it, and I think the sharing of the ball, you could tell it was contagious.”
The Eagles (4-5), who’ve still never beaten a Big Ten team in school history, couldn’t recover and lost their second straight after winning three in a row.
“I’m embarrassed,” Eagles coach Mark Byington said. “We have some prideful guys in the locker room too, and they’re embarrassed too. That’s not what we’re all about and we didn’t show up tonight.”
Ike Smith led Georgia Southern with 12 points and Jake Allsmiller added 11.
Springs went 4 for 8 from 3-point range for Minnesota. He keyed an early 14-5 run with 11 points in three minutes to stretch Minnesota’s first-half lead to 34-16. The Gophers slowed down after that, though, and didn’t have a field goal in the final 5:09 of the first. The Eagles outscored Minnesota 16-11 to end the first and trailed 45-32 at halftime.
Georgia Southern: Playing against Minnesota’s bigger and stronger players, the Eagles got only 16 combined points from backcourt duo Smith and Tookie Brown, who entered the game averaging nearly 36 points between them.
Minnesota: The Gophers regained some momentum after narrowly surviving by six points against NJIT on Tuesday.
Georgia Southern has three more road games in a brutal stretch to start the season, in which the Eagles play two of their first 12 games on their home court. “Right now, we just lack some things,” Byington said. “It’s on me. It’s bad preparation. It’s bad scheduling. The one thing we’ve got to do, as I’ve told the guys, the only thing they’ve got to worry about, is sticking together.”
HURTING FOR MINUTES
Michael Hurt finished with seven points in six minutes, including his first-ever 3-pointer. Pitino praised the freshman’s work ethic. “They think if you work hard you’re supposed to play, that’s not always the case. My goal is to win the game, that’s it. When you’re able to reward guys like that to play, it’s really good.”
Georgia Southern: Gets a rematch on Tuesday at Florida Gulf Coast, the team that snapped the Eagles’ three-game winning streak 85-82 last weekend.
Minnesota: Continues its nonconference schedule when the Gophers host another 4-4 team, Northern Illinois, on Sunday.