Read my full story on Minnesota’s 89-83 win over Clemson, here.
Three observations before I hit the snowy roads:
Hello, Murphy. Ever since freshman Jordan Murphy stepped on campus and we heard coach Richard Pitino gush and caught glimpses of the 6-6 forward’s length and explosiveness at the basket, we’ve been waiting to see this. Well, maybe not this, exactly, but some version of the high-powered Murphy we saw dominate the court on Monday night. An extremely hard-working rebounder with natural pop. A powerful scorer in the paint. In the last two games, Murphy seems to have woken up and realized he could be those things, and now. Monday was almost too strong a performance to anticipate at this stage – with eight offensive rebounds, two blocks and two steals complementing his 24 points, and his ability to explode from the baseline to tip in wayward shots. Very impressive, indeed – as Charles Buggs said, a “young Trevor Mbakwe.” It’s my belief that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Not what I expected, but entertaining. Pitino has built his stylistic reputation on defense and that seemed like the key vs. a lackluster Clemson offense on Monday. Instead, the Gophers allowed the Tigers to shoot 14 three-pointers after making more than eight just once this year and shoot 53.7 percent from the field. But besides getting to the line 30 times (making 24), Minnesota out-ran Clemson on the other end, out-rebounded the Tigers and made few mistakes (13 personal fouls and six turnovers). Just like the Gophers, right? Ok, not really, but it made for a good game to watch.
Don’t underestimate Dorsey’s worth here. No eye-popping stats tonight, but 6-foot freshman guard Kevin Dorsey was every bit as critical to this win as anyone. The pressure he put on Clemson’s guards appeared to baffle them and slowed the Tigers’ attack to a crawl. Dorsey has so many tools that will make him a good player, his speed and defensive prowess hitting the top of that list. But the undersized freshman’s insane athleticism also allows him to contest shots and leap up for rebounds that should belong to the bigs.