Gophers senior Jordan Murphy, who had 16 points and 19 rebounds in Wednesday's 56-51 loss against Wisconsin, was named to the top-10 watch list Thursday for the Karl Malone Award, given to the top power forward in college basketball. He ranks No. 2 in Big Ten history with 1,189 rebounds and is averaging a league-best 12.1 per game this season.
Murphy leads the Big Ten and ranks among the nation's leaders with more than seven free throw attempts per game, so it's clear that he takes a beating every night. He shot 6-for-16 from the field and 4-for-5 from the foul line vs. the Badgers.
"Tough kid," Gophers coach Richard Pitino said about Murphy. "Just competes. That was a physical, physical game. He got up and just kept competing."
U softball to open
The Gophers softball team, ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll, opens its season on Friday with two games in Orlando, Fla., in the Friends of Jaclyn Tournament. Minnesota plays North Florida at 4 p.m. and Central Florida at 6:30 p.m.
The three-time defending Big Ten tournament champions were 41-17 last season and are 5-0 in opening games the past five seasons.
The Gophers' key returning players are junior pitcher Amber Fiser (27-10, 1.69 ERA), first-team All-Big Ten, and three all-region players, outfielders Maddie Houlihan (.333, six HRs, 17 steals) and Ellee Jensen (.401, 40 runs) and second baseman MaKenna Partain (.375, 48 RBI).
• Sophomore closer Max Meyer of the Gophers was one of 55 players named to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list. The award goes to the top amateur baseball player in the country; Tom Windle in 2013 is the only other player to make that list in program history. Meyer, of Woodbury, had 16 saves and a 2.06 ERA last season with 54 strikeouts in 32⅔ innings.
• Kyle Atkinson, a Burnsville senior who was the Class 2A state runner-up in the shot put, signed with the Gophers. He was an all-state football player — a 6-2, 295-pound defensive tackle. "He was our top priority in the state of Minnesota," said Peter Miller, Gophers throwing coach and men's track and field recruiter, "and keeping him home means everything to our program. Kyle had Power 5 football offers but chose to continue in track and field here at Minnesota."