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Men’s basketball: Defense helps Gophers men pull away for win over Central Michigan

Minnesota was a 10-point favorite against Central Michigan, which went 7-23 last year and were picked to finish 10th in the 12-team Mid-American Conference.

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Minnesota Gophers forward Pharrel Payne (21) and guard Will Ramberg (25) battle Central Michigan guard Kevin Miller (2) for a rebound Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota had a plucky men’s basketball squad a year ago, and that underdog status was lessened at times by first-year coach Ben Johnson finding a way to keep them in games.

Johnson ideally wants his program to play suffocating man-to-man defense, but last season, he mixed in a fair amount of zone concepts. On Thursday at Williams Arena, Johnson went back to that well against Central Michigan.

Chippewas guard Kevin Miller was beating the Gophers with his quickness in the first half, so Minnesota went to a zone and slowed him down in a 68-60 win.

Miller, an all-Mid American Conference preseason selection, was averaging 18.5 points per game and was well on his way to far exceeding that with 15 points in the opening 20 first half minutes. He ended up with only four points in the second half.

The quickness of DePaul’s Umoja Gibson hurt Minnesota in a 69-53 loss Monday. The Oklahoma transfer had 14 points and eight assists.

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Minnesota was a 10-point favorite against Central Michigan, which went 7-23 last year and were picked to finish 10th in the 12-team Mid-American Conference.

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Mara Braun, who had a career-high 34 points and a buzzer-beater in a 101-99 victory over Lehigh, scored a game-high 27 points.

Braeden Carrington was scoreless in his collegiate debut Monday, but was more poised and productive Thursday, with 11 points and three steals. The true freshman had a steal on his first defensive possession, drove to the basket and fed Dawson Garcia for a lay-up. Later, he poked away another and finished his own breakaway with a lay-in.

Garcia led Minnesota with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, a nice bounce back after his self-described “terrible” first half against DePaul, when he made one of seven shots.

The Gophers (3-1) led 31-26 at the half, with nine players getting in the scorebook and playing at least eight minutes. Their by-committee approach was better than Miller’s one-man show.

The Gophers took a 7-0 lead as Central Michigan missed the opening five shots and never gave up the lead.

If it wasn’t frustrating enough for Miller in the second half. In the last minutes, freshman Joshua Ola-Joseph was playing man-to-man and easily blocked Miller’s shot.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
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