Gophers shoot past Louisville 86-76 in NCAA Tournament

Minnesota got hot three-point shooting and made free throws late to earn an 86-76 win over Louisville on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Gabe Kalscheur led all scorers with 24 points, including shooting 5-of-11 from three-point range. The No. 10-seeded Gophers shot 40 percent from the perimeter in the first half to take a 38-33 lead into the break. The finished 11-of-27 from the perimeter.

The Gophers have made at least 10 three-pointers in only three other games this season. Two of them were home wins over Indiana and Rutgers. The other was the season-opening win over Nebraska-Omaha.

“We just got confidence and we fed off each other,” Kalscheur said.

Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey added 18 points each. Murphy was sidelined for at least the last 10 minutes of the second half after dealing with back spasms. He received treatment from trainers on several occasions and made a short return to the court before sitting the rest of the game.

Murphy even made two 3-pointers for the Gophers, one in each half, as Minnesota led by as many as 19 points in the second half. Murphy’s three-pointers were the first since he made two of them in a loss at Maryland. He’s made just three since Jan. 27.

Gophers coach Richard Pitino said after the game Murphy would do whatever he could to be available for Saturday’s game. It was Pitino's first NCAA Tournament win as Minnesota coach. The Gophers hadn't won a game in the Big Dance since 2013, when they beat UCLA 83-63.

“Being proud is probably an understatement,” Pitino said.

All 86 of Minnesota’s points came from its five starters. The Gophers are the first team since Norfolk State in 2012 to win a first round NCAA Tournament game with zero points from the bench. None of the Gophers' reserves that played, Michael Hurt, Jarvis Omersa and Brock Stull, took a shot from the field.

Coffey shot 6-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-7 from the perimeter. Murphy's last basket before heading to the bench with back spasms gave Minnesota a 53-40 lead with 13:33 left. Kalscheur hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Gophers a 59-43 advantage with 11:51 left. Minnesota got its largest lead of the second half at 62-43 after Kalscheur made three free throws.

No. 7-seeded Louisville got as close as 76-69 late in regulation before the Gophers made free throws to pull away. Dupree McBrayer and Coffey combined to go 9-of-11 at the free-throw line. The Gophers also stayed poised with only five turnovers, and just one in the closing minutes as Louisville turned up the pressure.

Christen Cunningham led Louisville with 22 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but was a perfect 13-of-13 from the free-throw line. Steven Enoch added 14 points and Darius Perry scored 12.

The Gophers (22-13) will face Michigan State on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, for a trip to the Sweet 16. The Spartans pulled away from Bradley late in a 76-65 victory.