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Travarus Bennett had a career night, scoring 23 points with 15 rebounds and five steals to lead Minnesota to a 96-62 victory over New Mexico in the first round of the NIT at Williams Arena this evening. Minnesota advances to play the winner of the Richmond/Montana State in the second round on Monday.
Minnesota outscored the Lobos 49-22 in the second half and limited New Mexico to just 22.2 percent from the field in the second half. Minnesota dominated the boards throughout the game, finishing with a 49-26 rebound advantage. Leading 60-53 at the 11:19 mark of the second half, Minnesota broke open the game with a 30-7 run over the next nine minutes to put the game away. Bennett scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the second half.
The Gophers started the game with an 11-4 advantage, but the Lobos scored eight consecutive to take a 12-11 lead, but Rick Rickert ended the run with a jumper. Minnesota got a spark midway through the half with a pair of dunks from Jerry Holman and another by Michael Bauer to take a 34-28 lead.
After the Gopher offense went dormant for nearly two minutes, Rickert drilled a three-pointer, made a tremendous reverse dunk and converted a pair of free throws for seven straight Minnesota points to put the Gophers ahead 42-37. A 12-5 run to end the half gave the Gophers a 47-40 advantage at intermission.
Holman finished the game with a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds while Rickert added 18 points. Bennett's 15 rebounds is the most since Dusty Rychart grabbed 15 last year against Tulsa in the NIT on March 19, 2001.
New Mexico was led by Ruben Douglas with 22 points while Eric Chatfield added 19 points.