Minnesota may enter Wednesday's game in Minneapolis against visiting Jacksonville with an unbeaten record, but the Golden Gophers remain far from perfect in coach Ben Johnson's eyes.
An early 10-point deficit during Friday's home game against Purdue Fort Wayne struck Johnson as "the first time I felt guys were being tentative" in the early season. Still, the Golden Gophers rallied for a 78-49 win against the Mastodons to improve to 4-0.
A 19-point, seven-rebound effort from reserve Sean Sutherlin helped turn the tide. Eleven of Sutherlin's points came before halftime, and he finished 7-for-7 from the field.
"That's big time when a guy who can come off the bench can put up numbers like that," Minnesota's Luke Loewe said. "There's finishing at the rim, getting to the free-throw line, a huge spark to our team, and that just brings energy."
Feeding off defense and hustle is the Golden Gophers' goal, to be sure. The formula worked Friday, when the team pulled away behind gritty "D" and six second-half treys, including three (4-of-6 overall) from E.J. Stephens.
"You're going to win with your defense and have fun with your offense," Johnson said. "I thought their energy picked up, they consumed themselves with the defensive part, and conversely, all of the sudden, you're getting wide-open looks."
Jacksonville (2-1) concludes a two-game road trip with plenty of rest. The Dolphins have been idle since a 63-54 loss at Central Florida on Nov. 16.
Tommy Bruner's third 3-pointer of the night staked Jacksonville to its final lead of the game, at 54-51, but Central Florida closed on a 12-0 run.
"I was proud of our guys' effort," Dolphins coach Jordan Mincy said. "They gave it all they got. I'm disappointed, but not sad, with the loss. We have to get better."
Jacksonville will aim to boost its ball control after committing 24 turnovers against the Knights. Bruner and Jordan Davis scored 13 points to lead three Dolphins in double figures.
--Field Level Media