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Gophers men’s basketball improves to 7-0

Minnesota passes another road test, beats Mississippi State.

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The Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team won another close game on the road against a high-major opponent.

Minnesota improved to 7-0 with a 81-76 win over Mississippi State (6-2) on Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss. It comes after the U edged Pittsburgh 54-53 on Tuesday.

Payton Willis hit a clutch 3-pointer to break a 76-76 tie with 17 seconds left. On the other end he grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws to ice the game. Willis finished with 24 points, and Jamison Battle had 20.

The thin Gophers were without sixth man Sean Sutherlin, who was sidelined with a knee injury and is listed as game-to-game, according to the U. Sutherlin is fourth on the team in scoring with a 9.2-point average, but the one-two punch of Willis and Battle were enough on Sunday.

The Gophers mixed in zone defenses in the second half to fluster the Bulldogs, then 6-foot-3 guard Iverson Molinar became a force in the second half. He had a career-high 26 points, including 18 in the second half, for Mississippi State.

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Minnesota made 12 3-pointers, the first time the Gophers had double-digit threes since Jan. 30, 2021, against Purdue. To start the second half, Battle hit three triples and Willis one to re-extend the lead to 60-46.

The Gophers started hot with a 14-0 run across the first four minutes, but the Bulldogs had two runs (7-0 and 9-0) to trim the lead to 23-20 with six minutes left.

Willis paced the Gophers with 12 points and five assists, while Luke Loewe had 11 points after his game-winner against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

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