Just before halftime it seemed like the Gophers basketball team turned the corner in Wednesday's 80-56 win against Mount St. Mary's.
Jordan Murphy scored eight straight points from the end of the half and into the second period to give Minnesota a 10-point advantage.
But it took another big run to widen the margin for good.
For the second straight game, the Gophers looked like a completely different team after halftime. Earlier in the week, it was a 28-3 run that knocked out Texas-Arlington in the second half. And a 20-1 run buried Mount St. Mary's on Wednesday after intermission.
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has watched his team outscore opponents by a combined score of 92-53 in the second half in the last two victories. The Gophers shot 59 percent from the field in the second half Wednesday, and they shot 53 percent on Monday. They not only become a better team offensively, but the intensity picks up on defense as well.
Arlington shot 33 percent and Mount St. Mary’s shot 36 percent in the second half in the last two games. Is it all about halftime adustments? Is it a motivational speech?
“I just think we’re playing much more fundamental defense this year,” Pitino said. “I thought our pick-and-roll defense was better. We did a good job on the help side. Some rotations were good. I think our close outs have got to be better. I was more disappointed with the offensive side of it than the defensive side. In that first half we had 37. We could’ve had 45 or 50, if we made some free throws and execute better.”
-- Through three games, the Gophers’ entire starting five is averaging in double figures. Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer are tied as the team’s leading scorers with 13.7 points per game. Amir Coffey is off to a strong start to his freshman year while averaging 11 points. Jordan Murphy (10.7) and Reggie Lynch (10.0) are close behind. Mason, McBrayer and Coffey have scored in double figures in each game.
-- McBrayer said he’s more confident shooting the ball than he’s ever been in his basketball career. It has shown so far, as the 6-foot-5 sophomore is shooting 70 percent from the field. Astonishing numbers for a guard. But especially considering he shot just 33 percent last season as a freshman, including 25 percent from three-point range (he's 4 for 10 this year from long distance).
“I always thought sophomore year, he would have a really good year,” Pitino said. “Hopefully, he continues. I do love the confidence that he’s playing with. You can tell when he shoots the ball, he believes it’s going in. He’s worked hard at it. He’s put in the time.”