The Gophers walked away with an 89-83 win over Clemson on Monday, a meaningful win for the program considering the apparent size and physicality disadvantages and the struggles that have been more than apparent in the last several weeks.
But with 13:16 left, Minnesota trailed Clemson 55-50 after briefly leading for the first time since early in the first half.
It looked, for a moment, like the Gophers would fall into the same trap they’d shown vs. Temple and Texas Tech in Puerto Rico, surging only to fall back into a loss.
Then Minnesota freshmen guards Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer entered the lineup.
Look back at the boxscore, and their production doesn’t elicit more than a shrug. Combined, the two guards totaled eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. But watching the pair take over defensively at the end painted a different picture of effectiveness.
From 13:16 to 9:11, freshman forward Jordan Murphy, in the midst of a 24-point, 10 rebound game, scored five points and junior forward Charles Buggs hit a huge three-pointer to flip the momentum.
None of that would have looked as good, however, had the Gophers not clamped down defensively.
Clemson turned over the ball five times and fouled eight times in the same span, allowing Minnesota to charge ahead on a 12-1 run.
The differencemakers? Dorsey and McBrayer, driving Minnesota’s resurged defensive pressure, bewildering Clemson’s guards and instigating the switches that caused the Tigers' attack to fall apart at the seams.
Dupree McBrayer -- AP photo
Jordan Roper, who was knocking down everything earlier, and finished with a game-high 25 points, managed only to get to the line twice more in the final 13:16 and hit just one more basket. Guards Avry Holmes, Gabe DeVoe and Ty Hudson combined to connect on just one more field goal the rest of the way as coach Brad Brownell tried rotating through his backcourt to try to find something that works.
It started with Dorsey, whose intensity and eye-popping speed is tough for anyone to reckon with, but McBrayer was critical in that pressuring lineup too, his length helping to contain the Clemson attack. Dorsey can be out of control at times from a scoring perspective, but last night, he put it all together, and the result was game-changing.
With Murphy helping to root the frontcourt in that stretch, it was a glimpse of Minnesota’s future impacting the present: three growing freshmen, showing fans just what Gophers basketball might look like down the road.