Update: Temple led Minnesota 31-26 at halftime in the quarterfinal game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Carlos Morris gave the Gophers a 19-16 lead with about seven minute to play in the half, but Temple tied the game and, after another tie at 22, led until halftime.
Nate Mason led Minnesota with 11 points in the first half, hitting four of nine from the field. Morris added eight points as the team shot only 31 percent from the field.
Joey King was held scoreless in the first half anf picked up three personal fouls.
Come back to startribune.com after the game for another update.
Good morning from beautiful San Juan, where the current temperature is approximately 80 degrees and we’re enjoying a little peak of sun before rain rolls in for the next 16 hours or so. Minnesota tips off vs. Temple at Roberte Clemente Coliseum in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off’s first game at 10:30 CT.
“This trip should be fun,” sophomore guard Nate Mason said earlier this week. “I think we’ll go down there and make some noise. I’m very confident in the team and what we believe we can do.”
Check out my story on what coaches say about the pros and cons of scheduling any of the ever-growing holiday tournaments, here.
Preview on Temple- Minnesota, here.
A glance at the field, here.
And, in case you missed it, this week’s mailbag, where I talk all things Gophers basketball and discuss the ultimate head-to-head: Europe vs. the moon (just read it).
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH:
- First big test. What kind of team will Minnesota be? Can the Gophers realistically steal a few games and surprise some people? Are the freshmen ready? Will the team be able to hold its own vs. good frontcourts and good defenses? The first clues to the answers come on Thursday, when Minnesota faces a team that ranked 18th in defensive efficiency a year ago (Kenpom.com) and has proven talent down low and on the perimeter. “They’re always going to be physical,” coach Richard Pitino said. They’ve got good versatility on the perimeter -- 6-6 guys, 6-5, 6-7, kind of what we’re hoping to get to at some point. Very good defensively, obviously very well coached. [Temple coach] Fran Dunphy is a guy I have a lot of respect for. The culture of their program is very good.”
- Jaylen Bond and the rebound battle. The 6-8, 240-pound center is built like a refrigerator and had his way in the AAC a year ago, racking up a league-high 7.9 rebounds a game. He could similarly toy with the Gophers, who have struggled on the boards, losing the rebound battle in both games so far despite size advantages in each. There will be plenty of such size and force to contend with in the Big Ten, so at least competing in that area on Thursday would be huge for the Gophers.
- Which offense shows? In the season opener vs. UMKC, Minnesota nailed 12 three-pointers, eight in a hot second half, to cruise to victory. A couple days later, the Gophers offense was much more plodding en route to a win despite shooting just 37.9 percent from the field and going 3-for-22 from three-point range. The Gophers have plenty of scorers with Nate Mason, Carlos Morris and Joey King joined by freshmen Jordan Murphy and Kevin Dorsey, both of which have big offensive potentials, but so far, their production has been inconsistent. Which team is Minnesota going to be this year? We’re not sure yet, but three games vs. better defenses will start to reveal how efficient (or not) the Gophers can be.
- Hot Joey. In the last two games, senior forward Joey King has totaled 42 points and collected 12 rebounds and he’s looked as confident as ever, using his signature pump fake to his advantage and stepping up in moments when the Gophers were otherwise struggling offensively. But we’ve seen him take off against average, non-conference teams before. Can he keep up the pace against tougher competition?
- Where’s the press? One of the trademarks of Pitino’s system, the press has been oddly absent in Minnesota’s first two games. The Gophers coach said on Sunday that it was still a work in progress, basically, with the young roster, and that he was happy with improvements made in the team’s half-court defense. But what better place to test the press’ ability for later in the year than this tournament? There’s also the possibility that Pitino wants every advantage he can get and didn’t want to give away more scouting material than necessary. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get our first real glimpse today.
A few other things to note:
Minnesota arrived on a commercial flight on Tuesday around 3 p.m. and are staying in Condado, just outside on San Juan. The Gophers practiced at a local high school gym that night and finally checked out Roberto Clemente Coliseum yesterday before last night’s Welcome Reception for all eight teams. They’ll play tomorrow (Butler or Missouri State) at either 9:30 AM CT or noon CT, depending on whether they win or lose today. Saturday is an off-day and the final games will be held Sunday. This will be the third game in a week’s span for the Gophers. They’ll have played five games in ten days when the tournament is over.
Fran Dunphy, coach of Temple, Minnesota’s opponent today, had long recruited Philadelphia native Ahmad Gilbert before the wing chose the Gophers.
“I have known Ahmad my whole life or certainly his whole life,” Dunphy said last week on a conference call. “He's a really good kid. And I'm really wishing him all of the very best. And he is going to be a terrific asset for Minnesota. No question about it. Because he is a good kid and he is a good player, along with that. But he is a good man.”
And while there’s no telling whether Minnesota will face Texas Tech this weekend, but redshirt junior Charles Buggs has likely already run into former Gophers coach Tubby Smith, who is now at the helm of the Red Raiders. Buggs is the only player on Minnesota’s current squad who was recruited by and played for the previous staff.
“It will be good to see those guys again and tell them hello,” Buggs said. “They are good people.”
Jose Enrique: Blue crab ceviche atop plaintain fritters -- one of the best dinners I've had in a while.
Whole fried fish: That's a thing here, and it's amazing.
El Yunque National Rainforest: Tropical birds, waterfalls and beer shacks. In other words, paradise.
The Ocean: That thing out my window. It's pretty nice.