Gophers easily dismantle Alabama AM

November 22, 2017 GMT

Richard Pitino was weary of expanding his rotation too much to start the season with fear that his five returning starters wouldnt be in rhythm when they were really tested down the road.

The 14th-ranked Gophers need to be playing at a high level when back-to-back ranked opponents Alabama and Miami-Fla. come up on the schedule this weekend and the following week.

Beating up on inferior teams like Alabama AM in Tuesdays 100-57 victory at Williams Arena isnt exactly the best preparation for when the competition level makes a significant jump.

Four of Minnesotas first five opponents this season were ranked 199th or higher out of 351 Division I basketball teams by advanced stats guru Ken Pomeroy entering Tuesday, including Alabama AM at 350th.

By far the biggest test so far came in Minnesotas 86-74 win Nov. 13 at Providence, which could be a potential NCAA tournament team.

Pitino couldnt help that his home schedule didnt start off as strong this year, but he was able to get his bench players more playing time. At the same time, his top guns arent rusty going into a tough stretch.

Jordan Murphy, the Big Tens leading scorer and rebounder, had a team-high 20 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Murphy, who became the Us first back-to-back Big Ten player of the week winner Monday, picked up his fifth straight double-double.

Nate Mason started Tuesdays game making his first five shots and finished with all of his 12 points in the first half. During Minnesotas 5-0 start, the senior point guard hasnt missed a beat coming off earning All-Big Ten first team honors last season.

The Gophers were at their best last season when Mason leads the way, but Pitino wanted to get his freshmen guards Isaiah Washington and Jamir Harris more opportunities against Alabama AM.

Washington struggled shooting with just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, but he had eight assists with just two turnovers in 21 minutes. Harris scored a season-high 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field.

In the second half, Harris nailed three-straight three-pointers for the corner with his teammates leaping and hollering from the bench. A few minutes later, Washington ignited the crowd again with his trademark jelly layup to make it 86-49 at 5:51.

In the second half, starting center Reggie Lynch played only seven minutes, but he still finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. But post Davonte Fitzgerald had a season-high 13 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes.

Frontcourt depth has been a major concern this season after sophomore Eric Curry was lost for the season, but Pitino also got a good look at backup center Bakary Konate and even rarely-used reserve Gaston Diedhiou on Tuesday.

In the last two games, Konate has played a combined 25 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-11 senior might be called upon if Lynch gets into foul trouble against tougher opponents down the road.

While the Gophers might not get resume points for playing a soft home schedule so far, the experience they gave their bench players could prove more valuable.