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Red Wolves No Match for Gophers
December 8, 2018

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team began the first of four home games against lesser opponents by grabbing a 21-2 lead over Arkansas State and then hanging on for a 72-56 victory.

The state of Arkansas boasts four Division I basketball programs the University of Arkansas, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Little Rock, and Arkansas State. When it comes to dividing state talent, the Red Wolves wind up with the short end of the stick. Coach Mike Balado must search elsewhere. Only two Arkansas natives are on his roster. The others come from exotic locales such as Turkey, West Africa, the Bahamas, and Minneapolis.

The game proved to be a showcase for the talents of freshman Gopher Daniel Oturo who scored 19 points and snagged a dozen rebounds, tying Jordan Murphy in the latter category. Minnesota outrebounded Arkansas State 44-37. Oturo was on the court for 27 minutes before leaving with what coach Richard Pitino called a “sprained ankle.”

Pitino was generally complimentary of his players, indicating they did well in what he called a “guarantee game.” The coach should be more careful when describing the opposition. Many a team has overlooked small-college opponents and paid for it with an upset. Minnesota has three more “guarantee” games left to play.

After toying with the Red Wolves for the majority of the first half, the Gophers became mystified by the Arkansas zone defense and appeared to be willing to let the Red Wolves back into the contest. The crowd of 10,257, including more than a thousand parents of the youthful halftime dance troop, sat on their hands an yawned.

Minnesota players feigned interest until 8:14 remained, and Pitino called for a timeout. Arkansas State had crept to within 57-45, and the coach was alarmed. His team had apparently lost interest in the game and needed a push. That push was provided bt a three-point basket by reserve guard Brock Stull.

From there on, the Red Wolves stalled around, apparently content to keep the deficit around a dozen points instead of pushing for a possible win, and displayed no sense of urgency.

The Gophers, meanwhile, played well enough to maintain a lead around 16 points, the final margin.

In addition to Oturo, DuPree McBrayer had 14 points and Amir Coffey 12. Ty Cockfield dominated for the Red Wolves with 20 points, followed by Tristin Walley with 14. Arkansas State’s Minneapolitan Gillard Grantham had three points.

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