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In opener, Minnesota barely holds off Western Michigan

Feb 17, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Ben Johnson looks on from the bench during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State defeated Minnesota 67-46. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Dawson Garcia scored 23 points to lead Minnesota to a 61-60 win over visiting Western Michigan in the season opener for both teams Monday night in Minneapolis.

Ta’Lon Cooper scored 17 points for Minnesota, which played without leading returning scorer and preseason all-Big Ten selection Jameson Battle, who is week-to-week after undergoing foot surgery last week.

Lamar Norman Jr. scored 15 points and Seth Hubbard came off the bench to score 13 points in defeat for Western Michigan, which was playing its first game under new head coach Dwayne Stephens.

Minnesota held a 61-54 lead with 20 seconds remaining, but a 3-pointer by Western Michigan’s Markeese Hastings with eight seconds left and a 3-pointer as time expired by Norman made the final score a one-point game.

The Golden Gophers held a 41-30 lead with 17:08 remaining, but Western Michigan answered with a 7-1 run to cut the Minnesota lead to 42-37 with 12:20 left.

Minnesota built its lead back up to 11 at 56-45 on two Garcia free throws with 6:10 remaining, but Western Michigan didn’t go away, pulling back to within six at 56-50 with 3:40 left on a Hubbard 3-pointer.

But Garcia drained a 3-pointer with 1:56 remaining to give Minnesota a 59-50 lead.

Norman hit a layup with 22 seconds left to bring Western Michigan back to within six points at 60-54, but Taurus Samuels hit a free throw to give Minnesota a three-possession lead at 61-54 with 20 seconds remaining.

The game was close in the first 15 minutes before Minnesota made a surge over the final five minutes of the first half.

With Minnesota holding a 25-24 lead, the Golden Gophers went on a 10-0 run over a span of 2:34 to take a 35-24 lead with 22 seconds remaining in the first half.

Minnesota ultimately took a 35-26 lead at halftime.

–Field Level Media