Tickets: Gophers Host Indiana & Michigan This Week
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Nearly a year after a 23-point loss to Rutgers, the Gopher men's basketball team returned to New Jersey looking for its third win in a row. Minnesota earned a 72-63 victory on Saturday and improved to 18-7 on the season. Jordan Murphy led the Gophers with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
''I don't know if it was eight (players). It seemed like it was about three,'' Pitino joked. ''We don't like to reflect when we lose. We like to reflect when we win. Last year was a challenging end. . That was really tough. I remember walking in here like, `Ugh, this brings back bad memories.'
''So now that we're full strength, I think we're a good team. So hopefully we'll continue to get better. After 25 games, I love where we sit. I really do.''
Rutgers (13-13, 2-11) was led by C.J. Gettys, who had a team-high eight rebounds, and Mike Williams with 14 points each. Corey Sanders added 13 points, five assists and five rebounds.
The Scarlet Knights, who trailed by 12 early in the second half, cut the lead to five after Williams hit a 3-pointer to make it 66-61 with 4:02 to play.
''We're competing,'' Williams said. ''Like Coach said, it's not the Rutgers that everybody had on the schedule and was like, `We have an easy W,' and either you're going to take this L or have a hard-fought victory. Nothing easy.''
Murphy fouled out at the 2:28 mark with Minnesota leading 68-61 and Rutgers again pulled within five, 68-63, on a Gettys tip-in with 1:44 remaining before the Gophers made four free throws in the final minute.
Pitino credited it to his team's ''next man up philosophy.'' And the Gophers' fourth-year coach feels like his team is hitting its stride at the right time.
''We're playing our best basketball,'' Pitino said. ''It's most important to do that in February.''
CRASHING THE GLASS
Rutgers came in to the game ranked third nationally in offensive rebounding at 15.16 per game and fifth nationally in rebounds per game at 42.0. Rutgers was outrebounded 40-34 and had 14 offensive rebounds.
Minnesota entered the game ranked first in the Big Ten and second nationally with 6.8 blocks per game. They had five blocks, with Reggie Lynch - who leads the Big Ten and is third nationally with 3.2 per game - recording three.
Minnesota hosts Indiana on Wednesday.
Ski-U-Mah Weekly: Episode 2
Watch episode two of Ski-U-Mah Weekly with guests Richard Pitino, Sarah Hopkins and Steve Plasencia.
Watch Ski-U-Mah Weekly Live at Noon
Gopher basketball head coach Richard Pitino will appear on Ski-U-Mah Weekly today at Noon on Facebook.
Men's Basketball Pick-Your-Packs On Sale Soon
Gopher Score members will have first access starting September 19, while the general public can order their packs on September 26.