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Minnesota Tops High Point in NIT Opening Round

Despite losing Deandre Mathieu to injury, the Golden Gophers defeated High Point at Williams Arena in the opening round of the NIT.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota will move on to the second round of the NIT. The Golden Gophers beat High Point 88-81 Tuesday night, setting up a showdown with Utah or St. Mary's in the second round of the NIT.

Despite getting the victory, the biggest news of the night was a downer for the Golden Gophers. Deandre Mathieu was injured in the first half on a hard foul while going up for a layup. He did not return to the game.

The Gophers still got the job done. They shot 36 free throws on the night and made 30 of them and went 26-53 from the floor. Minnesota was 6-20 from three, but overall it was a strong shooting performance for the Gophers.

The biggest surprise of the night came from senior guard Maverick Ahanmisi. He was averaging just 8.6 minutes and 2.1 points per game this year, but he stepped up big with Mathieu on the sideline. Ahanmisi scored 21 points and shot 8-10 from the free throw stripe. It was a grand day for a senior who didn't get much playing time in his final season.

Joey King, Andre Hollins and Maurice Walker all finished in double figures. Hollins and King were a perfect 12-12 on free throws and King also grabbed seven rebounds.

High Point shot just as well from the free throw line, going 21-23, and they narrowly beat Minnesota in the rebounding battle, 31-30. They also shot a staggering 12-26 from deep. However, the Panthers turned the ball over twice as much as the Gophers, 12-6.

High Point's John Brown, Lorenzo Cugini and Devante Wallace all scored in double figures. Wallace shot 8-8 from the free throw line on his way to 20 points, and Brown went 7-11 from the field for 19 points before fouling out with just a couple minutes left in the game. Brown also threw down a spectacular one-handed alley-oop that you can probably catch on Sportscenter's Top 10.

Minnesota must have a bittersweet feeling after winning this one. Deandre Mathieu proved to be a great addition for this Gopher squad and quickly became a leader at the point. His status for the second round of the NIT is uncertain.

The Gophers will face the winner of Utah and St. Mary's at Williams Arena on Sunday in the second round of the NIT.