- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Minnesota erased a 12-point first half deficit and hung on to defeat Vanderbilt 56-52 on Saturday.

Freshman Amir Coffey hit two field goals in the final 95 seconds to help the Gophers to improve to 7-1 on the season. Coffey was 0-for-2 in the first half but came up big down the stretch.

“He had two, just really big-time shots,” said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. “He had great confidence and poise, especially for a freshman. He’s a really great player who can do a lot of things.”

The Gophers trailed 25-24 at halftime but used a 15-2 run to open the second half to build their biggest lead of the game at 39-27. From that point, Vanderbilt (4-4) went on a 23-11 run over the next eight minutes to take a six point advantage before the Gophers pulled away late.

“It was a game of runs. It was a fun game,” Pitino said. “This was a good win. I was happy to see our guys fight and get back in it. More than once.”

Jordan Murphy recorded his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds to lead Minnesota. He was 8-for-17 from the field and grabbed ten of his 14 rebounds in the second half.

Vanderbilt’s Jeff Roberson also recorded his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 16 rebounds. His 3-pointer with 7:09 to play gave the Commodores a 45-44 lead, their first lead since the one-point edge at halftime.

Vanderbilt finished the night shooting just 30.2 percent, going 28.1% in the second half. They went to the free throw line just nine times, seven of those attempts coming in the final 12 minutes.

“I think defensively, we’re pretty good right now,” Pitino said. “Vanderbilt is a very gifted offensive team, so to hold them to 30 percent and to do it without fouling is just terrific.”

The Commodores were just 9-for-32 from the field in the second half and scored just one field goal in the first six minutes of the game.

“They have a lot of length and athleticism,” said Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew. “They contested a lot of shots. Yea, we had some good looks, but they made it tough on us all night.”

The Commodore’s looked to blow it out early when they built a 14-2 lead. But after missing 10 of their first 11 shots, Minnesota responded with a 13-0 run and took the lead on a Dupree McBrayer basket. The Gophers didn’t get their first basket of the game until the 14:57 mark when Murphy finally scored. Minnesota finished the night shooting 39 percent, but hitting 44.8 percent in the second half.

After Minnesota built the lead to 39-27 on a 15-2 run to open the second half, it was Vanderbilt who made another run to cut the gap. Over the next eight minutes, the Commodores went on an 18-5 run to take the lead with just over seven minutes to play on a Luke Kornet 3-pointer.

Vanderbilt built the lead to as many as six, but the momentum turned back to Minnesota when Coffey hammered home a dunk on an alley-oop pass from McBrayer, cutting the lead to 50-48 with 4:48 to play.

McBrayer fouled Vanderbilt’s Nolan Cressler from outside the arc with 1:45 to play and the score tied at 50. Cressler made two of three from the line for a quick lead before the Gophers scored the final six.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: The Gophers improve to 7-1 and have six straight games back in Minneapolis where they are 6-0 this season. The home stretch is capped by their BIG 10 season opener on Dec. 27 vs. Michigan State.

Vanderbilt: The loss snaps a two-game win streak for the Commodores who made their first visit to South Dakota. They return home for two of their next three games.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Minnesota outscored Vanderbilt 34-8 in the paint. “We’re definitely a perimeter shooting team, but that’s something we’ve addressed and will continue to address,” Drew said. “We have to find a way to get easier points and getting the ball to the rim. That’s been a challenge for us.”

LET DOWN

Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis entered the game leading the Commodores in scoring at 15.3 points per game including a 22-point game in Vanderbilt’s victory over Tennessee State on Tuesday. Against Minnesota, he had his worst shooting night of the season going just 3-for-11 from the field and scored just three points in the second half.

UP NEXT

Minnesota: The Gophers return home to Minneapolis to host the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Dec. 6. The Highlanders come to Minnesota the winners of two straight including its 75-74 victory on Saturday against UMASS Lowell.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores return home to Nashville to host High Point on Dec. 6.

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