The Minnesota Golden Gophers certainly made it interesting in their opening round match-up of the Old Spice Classic, but they managed to hold on at the end to defeat the DePaul Blue Demons by a final score of 86-85 in Orlando, Florida on Thanksgiving Day.
Rodney Williams led the way for the Golden Gophers with 18 points on the afternoon, and Trevor Mbakwe chipped in with 16 points and 12 rebounds. DePaul's Brandon Young led all scorers with 23 points.
Minnesota trailed in this one by ten at the halftime break, 43-33, and the deficit grew to as much as 12 early in the second half. But the Gophers fought their way back, finally taking the lead at the 7:24 mark on a pair of free throws by Mbakwe made the score 74-73. Minnesota held a 84-83 lead with one minute to play, but after Austin Hollins missed a three pointer with the shot clock running down, Mbakwe. . .playing with four fouls. . .took a huge charge from DePaul's Cleveland Melvin on a drive to the basket to keep the one-point lead intact.
At the other end, Julian Welch missed a pair of free throws, but Rodney Williams was the man on the spot once again, snagging the offensive rebound and putting it back in to give Minnesota an 86-83 lead. DePaul came down the floor looking to tie, and Moses Morgan missed a three-point attempt. Krys Faber got the offensive rebound and scored what turned out to be a meaningless putback basket, as the time expired and the Gophers got out with an 86-85 victory.
Minnesota will play the Indiana State Sycamores in the Old Spice Classic semi-finals on Friday.