Unbeaten Minnesota still focus on improvement versus Jacksonville

Unbeaten Minnesota still focus on improvement versus Jacksonville

Minnesota may enter Wednesday’s game in Minneapolis against visiting Jacksonville with an unbeaten record, but Golden Gophers are still far from perfect in the eyes of coach Ben Johnson.

He hit an early 10-point deficit during Friday’s home game against Purdue-Fort Wayne Johnson as the “first time I’ve felt players were hesitant” early in the season. However, Golden Gophers mustered a 78-49 victory over mastodon to take a 4-0 lead.

A 19-point effort and seven rebounds from reserve Sean Sutherlin helped turn the tide. Sutherlin’s 11 points came before the break, and he finished 7-7 from the field.

“This is a big time when a guy who can be on the bench can put in numbers like that,” said Luke Lowe of Minnesota. “There’s a finishing at the edge, getting to the free-throw line, a huge spark for our team, and that just brings energy.”

Feeding defense and hustle is the Golden Gophers’ goal, sure. The formula worked out on Friday, when the team ran behind a “D” and six three-pointers in the second half, including three (4 of 6 overall) from EJ Stephens.

“You’ll win your defense and you’ll enjoy the offense,” Johnson said. “I thought their energy had improved, they consumed themselves in the defensive part, and on the contrary, all of a sudden, you were getting wide open appearances.”

Jacksonville (2-1) wraps up a two-game wild ride with plenty of rest. The Dolphins have been idle since a 63-54 loss in Central Florida on November 16.

Tommy Bronner’s third of the night bet Jacksonville for his final lead in the game, 54-51, but Central Florida closed 12-0.

“I was so proud of our guys’ efforts,” said Dolphins coach Jordan Mensey. “They gave everything they got. I am disappointed, but not sad, because of the loss. We have to improve.”

Jacksonville will aim to consolidate control of the ball after committing 24 turns against the Knights. Brunner and Jordan Davis scored 13 points to lead three double-digit Dolphins.

–Field Media Level

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