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NCAAB: New-look Minnesota on a roll with Texas A&M-CC ahead

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Minnesota will look to continue its impressive start to the season when it hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a nonconference matchup Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

The Golden Gophers (8-1) have surprised plenty of outsiders with their early success under first-year head coach Ben Johnson. Only two players from last season’s roster returned, leaving Johnson to overhaul the team by bringing in 10 transfers and three freshmen.

So far, the Minnesota makeover has been magnificent.

“Getting guys who want to be here is so important, especially on that ground level when you’re trying to build it,” said Johnson, a Minnesota alum who replaced former coach Richard Pitino. “You’ve got to have the right pieces to help win the locker room.”

They’re winning games, too, including a 75-65 road victory against Michigan on Saturday. That was the Golden Gophers’ second hard-fought road win in a row following an 81-76 win at Mississippi State one week earlier.

Jamison Battle scored a season-high 27 points in the win over Michigan. Payton Willis scored 17, Luke Loewe had 14 and E.J. Stephens finished with 13.

Minnesota trailed 36-32 at the break but outscored Michigan 43-29 in the second half.

Battle said team chemistry has helped fuel the Golden Gophers’ success.

“We’re around each other all the time,” said Battle, who transferred from George Washington. “We like each other’s presence, and I think it brings out greatness in teams.”

Meanwhile, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (9-1) is looking to spoil the party as it travels north. The Islanders have won eight straight games, including an 87-73 victory over Omaha in their most recent game Saturday night.

Terrion Murdix scored 19 points off the bench to lead Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Trevian Tennyson scored 18 points, Simeon Fryer had 13 and De’Lazarus Keys tallied 12.

Steve Lutz is in his first year as the Islanders’ head coach. The former Purdue assistant and Texas native hopes to lead his new program to the top of the Southland Conference.

“I feel in my heart that we have a chance to be the premier basketball school in this league,” Lutz said after he was hired this spring.

–Field Level Media

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