MINNEAPOLIS — The Miami Hurricanes passed their first test of the season by taking the Minnesota big men out of their element around the basket.
Dewan Huell had to work hard for his 15 second-half points, but all those screens he came up to set paid off down the stretch.
Huell scored 23 points in 27 minutes and Bruce Brown Jr. added 16 points and nine rebounds to help No. 10 Miami beat No. 12 Minnesota 86-81 on Wednesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The Hurricanes (6-0) shot 56 percent from the field after halftime and had 17 points off Minnesota turnovers, but this game was won with the repeated pick-and-rolls coach Jim Larranaga called to lure Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch away from the lane for the Gophers.
“If you let those big guys just hang around the basket, they get every rebound and block a lot of shots so we needed to spread them out,” Larranaga said.
The Hurricanes used three natural point guards to start the second half to set up Huell for some soaring slams.
“What he should do is take those guards out to dinner tonight,” Larranaga said.
Ja’quan Newton had 12 points and nine assists, and Dejan Vasiljevic (11 points) and Chris Lykes (10 points) combined for half of Miami’s 10 makes in 25 attempts from 3-point range.
Amir Coffey scored 23 points and Murphy had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Gophers (7-1), who never led in the second half after a 36-all tie at the break. They came within 73-71 on Isaiah Washington’s layup. Murphy missed two free throws with 3:09 to go after a dunk by Huell, though, and they didn’t get closer. Nate Mason added 15 points and Lynch had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but Minnesota’s power game in the paint was outdone by Miami’s slick outside shooting.
“They’re a talented team, a well-coached team, and we certainly squandered some opportunities,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said.
Murphy, the junior power forward who has emerged in the early going this season as one of the best big men in the country, easily stretched his double-double streak to a program-record eight straight games.
In one stretch in the first half, he blocked Lonnie Walker’s shot sandwiched between 3-pointers by Mason and then came up with a steal. But the Gophers didn’t do enough to take the pressure off Murphy during the decisive stretch after halftime, and they just didn’t have enough scoring to match the Hurricanes.
“That was the game plan, though, to make him uncomfortable,” Brown said. “We wanted to focus on him.”
Huell was unafraid of attacking the basket, using a soft hook to counteract the Murphy-Lynch tandem that combined for 10 blocked shots, and the ball was whipping around on the perimeter to find the best shot among several viable options.
Lykes, the 5-foot-7 freshman, replaced Vasiljevic in the lineup to start the second half and swished a couple of key 3-pointers that helped the Hurricanes pull away. He used a slick fake pass in the corner to get Gophers forward Michael Hurt to jump and open his shooting lane for a 52-45 lead. Vasiljevic later banked in a 3-pointer from the wing for a 68-56 advantage that was Miami’s biggest of the game.
In his first career start, Washington scored 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting. The New York Mr. Basketball award winner is 2 for 24 from 3-point range with 17 turnovers in eight games. Mason, the senior, did his best to try to lift his spirits.
“It’s going to be a tough pill for him to swallow, but once he looks at the film and dissects everything and listens to what Coach has to say, I think he’s going to recover,” Mason said.
FEBRUARY ATMOSPHERE IN NOVEMBER
The Hurricanes were the first ranked nonconference opponent to visit Williams Arena since No. 17 Georgia in 2002, and the crowd at “The Barn” was buzzing with a line down the block to get in the 89-year-old arena and a sellout announced before tipoff. Even Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Miami native, was in attendance.
The Gophers didn’t face any Top 25 teams at all in nonconference play in either of the last two seasons. This was their second such contest in five days, after an 89-84 victory over No. 24 Alabama in New York at the Barclays Center that garnered more attention for the mass ejection that preceded a foul out and an ankle injury that left the Crimson Tide with only three players for the final quarter of the game.
Miami: This is the second 6-0 start for the Hurricanes in four years, but the competition prior to Minnesota was insignificant. That made this performance all the more meaningful. The Hurricanes never trailed by more than six points and were unfazed by the raised court and the roaring gold-clad fans.
“I let them know: ‘Calm down. We’re good.’ Every time they scored,” Brown said.
Minnesota: With Dupree McBrayer out because of an infection in his right leg, the freshman Washington was thrust into the starting lineup to further thin a Gophers bench that will be their biggest concern in 2018. None of their reserves scored in a combined 35 minutes.
“We definitely missed him,” Mason said, adding: “It was a struggle all around.”
SO MUCH FOR THE CHALLENGE
The ACC teams have won 11 of the first 13 games against the Big Ten this week, with the Notre Dame-Michigan State matchup the only one left.
“The ACC and the Big Ten both probably consider themselves the best conference in the country,” Larranaga said, “and when we compete against each other there’s a lot of pride at stake.”
Miami: Returns home to face Princeton off campus on Saturday in the Hoophall Miami Invitational. No. 2 Kansas plays Syracuse in the other half of the doubleheader at AmericanAirlines Arena, where the NBA’s Heat play.
Minnesota: Plays Rutgers on Sunday in an early Big Ten opener. Each conference team has two league games in the next week to make room at the end of the schedule for the Big Ten Tournament, which will be played a week earlier than usual in New York at Madison Square Garden.