MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota and Oral Roberts both entered
Saturday's game looking for momentum heading into conference play.
One team found some.
Maurice Hargrow scored 23 points to lead the Minnesota Gophers
in a 67-54 victory over the Golden Eagles Saturday.
Caleb Green led Oral Roberts with 24 points and 15 rebounds. He
was the only scorer in double figures for the Golden Eagles (5-7),
who have lost three straight and five of six.
Minnesota's three perimeter players -- Grier, Hargrow and Adam
Boone -- combined for 16 of Minnesota's season-high 17 steals,
including a career-high seven by Grier.
Coach Dan Monson said the game was Minnesota's best 40 minutes
of defense all year.
"We played like we know we can," Grier said. "It was a great
feeling to have all three of us out there together." Grier missed
five games earlier this year with a broken bone in his shooting
hand and Hargrow three with a high ankle sprain. Each also missed a
game for violating team rules.
"This was the first time in many games that we've had our whole
team as far as perimeter players. It's definitely a confidence
builder going into the Big 10 to have our perimeter players run
together and get a good feel for one another," Hargrow said.
Ken Tutt, who was averaging 16.3 points per game, was held to
just six second-half points by the trio, going 2-for-15 from the
field. Overall, Oral Roberts shot 33.3 percent from the field;
Minnesota 45.6 percent.
"Tutt has a hard time when he has to play against bigger,
athletic guards," said Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton.
"Minnesota has good guards and they did a nice job. He's a great
shooter, and got some decent looks in the second half, but he was
maybe a little out of rhythm after the first half where he didn't
get many good looks."
Hargrow scored 10 of Minnesota's first 16 points before a Grier
steal and left-handed dunk made it 18-13 eight minutes in. Grier
then fed Spencer Tollackson for two dunks, the latter an alley-oop
over Green to make it 22-15.
A 9-0 run by Minnesota -- capped by a Grier basket underneath
while falling backward -- put Minnesota up 31-20 late in the first
half, before a short hook by Mickey Michalec ended a six-minute
scoreless drought for Oral Roberts.
After a leaner by Boone put Minnesota up 38-26 early in the
second half, the Golden Eagles slowly began to chip away at the
deficit. An inside basket by Green after a pass from Jonathan
Bluitt got Oral Roberts within four points midway through the half,
but Grier and Tollackson answered with jumpers for Minnesota.
"We battled and battled, but when you turn the ball over 24
times you're not going to beat a good team on the road," Sutton
said. "Our defense was good enough to win."
Green scored from in the paint to make it 52-46 with 5:46
remaining. But a pair of 3-pointers from Hargrow and two free
throws from Boone and Tollackson offset a Bluitt layup, putting the
Gophers up by 14 less than three minutes later.
Minnesota, which had eight days off, now gets a week off before
opening Big 10 play Jan. 7 against Northwestern. Oral Roberts, the
overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Mid-Continent Conference
crown, plays Monday at Chicago State.
"With a first conference bye, it's super-important that we can
build on a positive going in and have a week to hopefully get
healthy and get ourselves organized. This essentially gives us two
weeks of practice, not including today, to get ready for the Big
10," Monson said. "We made a really nice jump in the last week
and I hope we do the same heading into Northwestern."