Gophers cruise past Hilltoppers in home opener

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The Gophers men's basketball team beat Western Kentucky 76-54 in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Minnesota was hot from the outset getting out to a quick start and building a 46-28 halftime lead.

Deandre Mathieu was outstanding for the Gophers. He scored 11 points, dished out six assists, had five steals and grabbed a team-high five rebounds. Maurice Walker added 14 on five-of-nine shooting and Joey King chipped in with 10.

Freshman Nate Mason also had a big night off the bench. Mason finished with 10 points, including a pair of threes.

The Star Tribune notes that Minnesota looked much sharper in Tuesday's victory than in Friday's season-opening loss to Louisville, cutting down on fouls (17) and turnovers (11).

The biggest difference in the game was turnovers. Western Kentucky committed 25 of them, compared to Minnesota's 11.

Mathieu led a defensive effort that came up with 17 steals, a high in the Richard Pitino era at Minnesota.

Nigel Snipes and Justin Johnson led Western Kentucky with 15 points each.

The Gophers (1-1) are back in action Thursday night when they host Franklin Pierce in the NIT Season Tip-off.

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