Minnesota beats Lehigh 81-62Minnesota center Elliott Eliason (55) and Lehigh forward Jesse Chuku (31) look for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Minneapolis. Lehigh forward Tim Kempton, partially hidden, and Minnesota's Joey King, center, and Malik Smith (30) watch. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Richard Pitino earned his first victory as Minnesota's coach Friday night, an 81-62 win over Lehigh behind 20 points from newcomer Joey King.
Andre Hollins added 18 for the Gophers, who earlier in the day learned star in-state recruit Reid Travis chose Stanford over Minnesota. A few hours after that, the team announced a six-game suspension for reserve forward Maurice Walker for violating an unspecified university policy.
King, Hollins and the rest of the Gophers made sure Pitino's day ended better than it started.
Mackey McKnight led Lehigh with 18 points and Austin Price added 15, but the Mountain Hawks were overmatched against the more experienced Gophers. Even without Walker's 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame, Minnesota dominated inside, outscoring Lehigh 34-20 in the paint. Elliot Eliason had 11 points and 17 rebounds for the Gophers.
Hollins made five free-throws in the first three minutes and a fast-break dunk at 13:06 to give the Gophers a 14-6 lead. King, a sophomore who played his freshman season at Drake, followed with a 3-pointer as Minnesota pulled away early.
Lehigh finally found a rhythm midway through the second half during a 13-1 run that cut Minnesota's lead to 48-36. But two free throws by Eliason, a 3-point play by King, and back-to-back field goals by Hollins and Austin Hollins pushed the lead back to 21.
Pitino - son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino - spent one season as Florida International University's head coach before replacing the fired Tubby Smith in Minnesota. Smith led the Gophers to the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament, but it wasn't enough to preserve his job. Pitino was hired the next month and on Friday received a nice ovation from the home crowd.