Coffey leads Minnesota past overmatched Omaha
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Amir Coffey opened the season for Minnesota with 18 points in 24 minutes and Daniel Oturu had 14 points and eight rebounds in his college debut, guiding the Gophers to a 104-76 victory over Omaha on Tuesday night.
Dupree McBrayer scored 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range and Jordan Murphy pitched in 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Gophers, who shot 63 percent from the floor and built a 54-26 advantage in points in the paint. Isaiah Washington added 11 assists off the bench.
Zach Jackson led the Mavericks with 21 points. J.T. Gibson, one of four returning starters and a native of Minnesota who starred at Champlin Park High School in the Twin Cities area, added 10 points for Omaha.
Coffey, who played on the wing in his first two seasons and missed 14 games as a sophomore because of a shoulder injury, took over at point guard following the departure of four-year standout Nate Mason. The 6-foot-8 Coffey, who had four assists, went 5 for 7 from the field and made all eight of his free throws.
The Mavericks went more than 6½ minutes into the game without a field goal, including a missed dunk by Matt Pile, until Jackson finally knocked down a jumper in the paint. That gave them a jolt, because they used a 19-6 run capped by a 3-pointer from Gibson to take a 22-20 lead.
The 6-foot-10 Oturu, this season’s prized recruit, had two putbacks, two rebounds and a blocked shot in the final 90 seconds of the first half to help the Gophers pull away. Coffey, fouled behind the arc at the buzzer by Ayo Akinwole, made three free throws for a 50-31 lead at the break.
Three years ago, the Mavericks gave the Gophers a scare on the day after Thanksgiving in 2015 when Gibson and Jackson were freshmen. Omaha pulled within one point with 24 seconds left, and Minnesota missed five of its final eight free throw attempts before pulling out a 93-90 victory.
This was Omaha’s ninth game against a Big Ten opponent since moving to Division I in 2011. The Mavericks have won once, at Iowa on Dec. 3, 2016.
Omaha: Coming off a 9-22 record in 2017-18 and predicted in the preseason Summit League poll to finish eighth out of nine, the Mavericks play their first of five road games against power-conference opponents on the 2018-19 schedule. In upcoming trips to Colorado, Iowa State, Arizona State and 14th-ranked Oregon, they have experience and balance to be competitive, but depth and length are limited. They were outrebounded 41-21, and the Gophers had a 35-18 edge in bench scoring.
Minnesota: Washington, the jewel of last year’s class who had a rocky first season, found freshman Jarvis Omersa with lob passes for a pair of second-half dunks that brought the small crowd of 8,883 to a roar. If he can provide a steady scoring and passing presence in his reserve role, the Gophers could have one of the deepest teams in the conference, particularly when center Eric Curry returns from knee surgery December.
Omaha: Plays Buena Vista, a Division III school in Iowa, in the home opener on Friday afternoon.
Minnesota: Hosts Utah on Monday night, the first-ever visit by the Utes to Williams Arena.