PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence brought plenty of energy to its matchup with No. 14 Minnesota. However, the Golden Gophers had the toughest player on the court, and he showed up when it counted.
Jordan Murphy had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Minnesota outlasted the Friars 86-74 on Monday night.
Murphy scored 15 points in the second half, leading the Gophers back from a three-point halftime deficit. Nate Mason added 17 points and Amir Coffey finished with 15.
“I can remember five baskets where it just was him and nobody in the gym,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said of Murphy’s efforts down the stretch. “He went through us, over us, around us, and-ones … he’s a pretty special talent.”
The Gophers tied it up 55-55 in the second half, then used a 23-11 run to take control.
“I definitely like the resistance. It’s definitely something that makes you stay on your toughness,” Murphy said. “That’s to their credit, they brought that out of us and we played like a team and we were tough together. We’re hard to stop when that happens.”
Kyron Cartwright and Nate Watson led the Friars with 12 points apiece.
Minnesota had just six assists on 30 made baskets, but they made up for it by dominating on the inside. The Gophers outscored Providence 40-26 in the paint and held a 38-31 rebounding edge.
“Six assists on 30 baskets. That’s look yourself in the eye,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “That means whoever had the ball went right by you.”
The Friars had no answer for Murphy, who caught the ball deep and was able to weave his way to the rim at will in the second half.
Minnesota’s inside play helped mask a difficult shooting night from the outside. The Gophers were 5 of 17 from the 3-point line for the game, but four of those makes came in the second half.
Providence also had 13 turnovers that led to 17 Minnesota points.
“We knew it they’d eventually get tired of guarding,” Mason said. “That’s what they did in the second half and we took advantage of it.”
Minnesota: The Gophers showed some mental toughness in the second half, trusting their offensive sets and executing much better down the stretch.
Providence: The Friars showed that they score with a much bigger team. Sustaining it over the course of game is their task going forward.
The Golden Gophers started fast, quickly taking 12-2 lead. But the Friars stayed close, going 5 for 9 from the 3-point line and getting 16 points from their reserves in the first half.
Minnesota was cold from beyond the arc, going just 1 for 10 from in the opening 20 minutes. Its offense stalled because of it, leading to a stretch of more than five minutes without a field goal.
Providence took advantage and closed the half on an 11-6 run, taking a 39-36 lead into halftime.
The Providence student section heckled Minnesota coach Richard Pitino with “Who’s your daddy?” chants several times during the game. Pitino’s father, Rick Pitino, was fired by the University of Louisville after 16 seasons last month after the school acknowledged it was being investigated in the federal probe.
The younger Pitino is a 2005 Providence graduate and served as an assistant at Louisville under his father. Monday was his first game as a head coach against his alma mater. He faced the Friars as an assistant coach five times, going 3-2 (Northeastern 0-1, Louisville 3-1).
“Yeah, what the hell was that about — I’m a graduate,” he said with a smile about the mixed reception he got from the Friars’ fans. “It’s cool to win, certainly. Fans are fans. That doesn’t bother me.”
Minnesota: Play their next three games at home, beginning Wednesday against Niagara.
Providence: It was great prep as the Friars prepare to head to Madison Square Garden Thursday for the 2K Classic. Their opening game is against Washington.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower