Koivu has goal, 2 assists; Wild crush Canucks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mikko Koivu had a goal and two assists, and the surging Minnesota Wild beat the road-weary Vancouver Canucks 6-2 on Thursday night.
Eric Staal had a goal and an assist, and Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker also scored for the Wild, who had a season high in goals. Ryan Suter had two assists, and Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. Minnesota has won four of five and 11 of 14.
Bo Horvat and Markus Granlund scored for Vancouver, which lost three straight in regulation to conclude its second six-game road trip of the season. The Canucks have played a league-high 14 road games, double its number of home contests.

Towns, Wiggins shine as Timberwolves top Pelicans

By Patrick Donnelly
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 16 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins scored 23 and the Minnesota Timberwolves improved to 2-0 since trading Jimmy Butler with a 107-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Jeff Teague added 14 points and 14 assists for the Timberwolves.
E’Twaun Moore scored a season-high 31 and Anthony Davis had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, who had won three straight.
Minnesota led 52-31 early in the second quarter but the Pelicans chipped away, cutting their deficit to 13 at halftime and just four going into the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves scored the first seven points of the period to stretch their lead to 92-81, but New Orleans responded with a 15-2 run to take its first lead of the game on a 12-foot jumper by Jrue Holiday.
Wiggins’ 3-pointer put the Wolves back on top and Towns followed with a three-point play to give Minnesota some breathing room.
Then with 2 minutes to go, Towns, playing with five fouls, blocked Davis’ layup attempt and fed Wiggins on the other end for a thunderous dunk. Wiggins was fouled as well, and his free throw put Minnesota up 105-98.
The game was Minnesota’s first with forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric. They were acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers along with injured guard Jerryd Bayless in exchange for the disgruntled Butler.
The trade was completed Monday, meaning Covington and Saric did not join their new teammates in time for the Timberwolves’ 120-113 victory over Brooklyn that night.
Covington started Wednesday, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He drained a pair of long, catch-and-shoot 3s in the third quarter as the Timberwolves were trying to hold off a Pelicans comeback.
Saric came off the bench to contribute 9 points and three boards in 20 minutes.
Towns had 15 points and nine rebounds in the first quarter as Minnesota raced out to a 38-28 lead, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and hitting 6 of 11 3-pointers in the process.
TIP-INS
Pelicans: C Nikola Mirotic returned after missing two games with a right ankle sprain. He had 16 points and 10 boards. . Head coach Alvin Gentry said PG Elfrid Payton is close to returning from his own right ankle sprain, but he sat out his ninth straight game.
Timberwolves: The win was Minnesota’s fifth straight against New Orleans. . G Derrick Rose (left knee soreness) did not dress after playing 39 minutes in the win over Brooklyn on Monday. Rose is averaging 19.2 points and 4.8 assists per game this season. . Teague played for the second time in three days after missing six games with a bruised left knee.
UP NEXT
Pelicans: Host the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Timberwolves: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

No. 25 Minnesota women breeze by Xavier

CINCINNATI (AP) — Kenisha Bell scored 18 points, Taiye Bello had 11 points and 16 rebounds and No. 25 Minnesota beat Xavier 78-53 on Wednesday night.
Minnesota’s full-court defense caused problems for Xavier in the first half, turning it over seven times and shooting 27.6 percent. The Gophers opened a 20-7 first-quarter lead and extended it to 42-20 by halftime.
Jasmine Brunson added 13 points for Minnesota (2-0), and Destiny Pitts had 14 points. Brunson scored 11 in the first half, and four Gophers were in double figures entering the fourth quarter.
Tierra Floyd scored 10 points for Xavier (2-1). A’riana Gray nearly had her second double-double of the season with nine points and 10 rebounds. Xavier was just 8 of 29 from the field in the first half, including 3 of 11 from distance.

Granlund scores in third to lift Wild over Blues 3-2.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mikael Granlund opened the season with a trio of forgettable games.
“I hardly ever touched the puck,” the Minnesota Wild forward recalled.
Those days are long gone.
Granlund scored his team-high 10th goal of the season in the third period to lift the Wild over the St. Louis Blues 3-2 on Sunday.
Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves, and the Wild got their fifth win in six games and 10th in their past 12. They completed a franchise-record seven-game road trip at 5-2.
Zach Parise and Joel Eriksson Ek also scored for Minnesota.
The red-hot Granlund has four goals in his last three games and eight in his last 10. His goal with 12:17 left in regulation was his third game-winner of the season.
“There’s some little things I’ve tried to do better,” Granlund said. “It just seems like pucks are really going in right now.”
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau knew Granlund, who did not get a point in the first three games, would eventually overcome the slow start.
“He’s our best offensive player,” Boudreau said. “It’s pretty cool. That’s what he is, a really good hockey player.”
Oskar Sundqvist and Alex Pietrangelo scored for St. Louis, which also lost at home to Minnesota 5-1 on Nov. 3.
Granlund pounced on a loose puck in the slot and drilled it past Chad Johnson to break a 2-all tie. Through 16 games, he’s already nearly halfway to his career high of 26 goals from 2016-17.
Minnesota scored twice in a 25-second span early in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Parise pounded home the rebound of a shot by Nino Niederreiter that hit the post. Eriksson Ek then converted off a shot by Jordan Greenway.
The Wild were playing their third game in four nights and have not played at home since Oct. 27. Although tired, the players banded together for another strong road effort.
“Today was a hard game, the end of trips are always tough,” Parise said. “With the travel and the early start, it was a challenging game. But we scrambled and got ourselves a win.”
Pietrangelo tied it at 2 with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle midway through the second period.
Dubnyk, who has won three of his last four, improved to 8-3-2.
“We’re continuing to play the way we have to be to be successful,” Dubnyk said. “When you get winning, and guys are playing together, it doesn’t seem to matter which direction the game is going. You just believe you’re going to get the job done in the end. That’s the feeling that we have right here.”
Johnson, who fell to 2-3, had a string of 66 successive saves halted by Parise’s goal.
The Blues were looking to win their third in a row for the first time this season.
“It’s very disappointing,” St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly said. “It stings. It’s definitely a frustrating one. We easily could have got it into OT — but we didn’t.”
NOTES: O’Reilly extended his career-high point streak to 10 games with an assist in the second period. Alexander Steen was the last St. Louis player to reel off 10 in a row from Dec. 30, 2014 to Jan. 19, 2015. … The Blues are 15-5-3 in their last 22 home games against the Wild dating back to 2008. … Minnesota D Matt Dumba played in his 116th successive game, the longest current streak on the team.
UP NEXT
Minnesota: Hosts Washington on Tuesday night.
St. Louis: At Chicago on Wednesday night.
___
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AP Source: Jimmy Butler going to 76ers from Minnesota

By Dan Gelston
AP Sports Writer

Jimmy Butler has his wish: He’s out of Minnesota.
And just like that, Philadelphia has a new Big Three — one that could make serious noise in the Eastern Conference.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Butler is being traded to the 76ers in a package that will send Dario Saric and Robert Covington to the Timberwolves. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been announced by either team and was still pending NBA approval, which is not expected until Monday.
Justin Patton will also be sent to Philadelphia, and Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick are also going to Minnesota, the person said.
The Athletic first reported the agreement.
Because the trade was not official, Sixers coach Brett Brown had little comment.
“I can’t speak much about it. I’m sorry,” he said before the Sixers played Memphis.
Sixers guard T.J. McConnell said he learned of the deal through social media.
“I didn’t think it was true until more reports started coming out,” McConnell said. “It’s kind of that feeling in your stomach of just like, I mean, you can’t really explain it. I was in disbelief.”
Philadelphia’s “Process” led it to the second round of the playoffs last season behind two of the game’s youngest, brightest stars in big man Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. Butler, an elite wing player and outstanding defender, will join them in a quest to rule the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James is out West with the Los Angeles Lakers following eight straight trips to the NBA Finals with Miami and Cleveland.
“I think they were a contender before,” James said, giving his reaction to the deal Saturday. “So it only enhances what they’re able to do. I mean, they’ve got Ben and Joel and now you’re adding Jimmy. I think that’s a very, very good team.”
The first order of business will be making the trade official, so Butler can debut for Philly either Monday at Miami or Wednesday at Orlando. The next step for Philadelphia will be coming to an agreement on an extension for Butler, a pending free agent who made clear to Minnesota that he would not be re-signing there in 2019.
Translated: The Wolves had to trade him, or they would lose him for nothing.
The drama has been constant from Butler’s first practice with the Wolves this season, and the team’s start while waiting for this inevitable move has been lousy. Minnesota finished a 0-5 road trip with a loss in Sacramento on Friday night and is 4-9 overall — winless in eight games on the road.
Butler played in 10 of those games, averaging 21.3 points. It was a peculiar arrangement; the Timberwolves were still running things through him often, even while the worst-kept secret in the NBA was that he wanted a change of address. Plenty of teams were mentioned along the way — Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami among them — as top candidates.
“I think him getting a fresh start on a team like ours will be beneficial to both sides,” McConnell said.
Butler, 29, has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons. There are also concerns, though they clearly didn’t put off Philadelphia. Butler has missed at least 15 games in four of the last five seasons, including a career-high 23 games last year while dealing with a knee injury.
Philadelphia, who had just nine available players against the Grizzlies in part because of the pending move, will become Butler’s third team, after Chicago and Minnesota. He’s a career 16.5 point-per-game scorer, though that is skewed by his first two seasons, which were meager on the scoring front. He’s on pace this season to average at least 20 points for the fifth consecutive year.
“Welcome to the best sports city in America,” quarterback Carson Wentz of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles tweeted to Butler.
Saric is in his third season and averaging 11.1 points, shooting only 36 percent. Covington had been a starter for Philadelphia for the bulk of the last four-plus seasons and is averaging 11.3 points per game this year.
Philadelphia and Minnesota don’t meet until Jan. 15. Butler’s return trip to Minnesota this season would be March 30, when he’s sure to be showered with boos from a Target Center crowd that jeered him at the beginning of the home opener before quickly letting up. Butler had 33 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the floor in 36 minutes that night against Cleveland, a reminder amid the drama why coach Tom Thibodeau was so eager to acquire him the year before.
Thibodeau swung a draft-night deal with Chicago that sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a first-round pick that became Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for Butler and a later first-rounder Minnesota used on Patton. In the wake of that move, long-frustrated Wolves fans figured they were finally on their way to contending in the Western Conference for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era ended.
Paired with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the first overall picks in the 2015 and 2014 drafts, respectively, Butler immediately provided the experience, tenacity and defense the Wolves were missing, in addition to his scoring touch. He loved playing for Thibodeau, his coach for his first five seasons with the Bulls, and they helped Minnesota get to the playoffs last spring for the first time in 14 years.
But the roster never truly meshed. And now, a new start awaits them all.

Minnesota defense shows in 41-10 win against Purdue

By Brian Hall
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Known for his catchphrases, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck had one for his defense that he repeated often in the week after firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith: sound, simple fast.
The Gophers’ maligned defense looked each part as it held Purdue to season-lows in yards and points for a 41-10 win against the Boilermakers in the cold and snow on Saturday.
Quarterback Seth Green had a touchdown rushing and passing, and redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 156 yards for Minnesota, which played its first game under interim defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.
The Gophers entered the game allowing 43.2 points and 507.7 yards per game, but linebacker Blake Cashman forced a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown as Minnesota (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) held Purdue to 233 total yards and 0 of 12 on third down.
“Sound, simple, fast,” Fleck said of the defensive philosophy. “We didn’t change our defense. The defense is the defense, and the defense works. We got back to us.”
Senior quarterback David Blough was 20 of 31 for 142 yards passing for the Boilermakers (5-5, 4-3), who entered the game second in the Big Ten scoring with 35.8 points per game.
“Really, just some selfish things that are going on that can’t happen,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “Too many people that have patted themselves on the back too much, and listened to others instead of working their tail off and finding ways to improve, and understanding that all the little things matter, and realizing that the team comes first.”
Fleck fired Smith a day after giving up 646 yards in a loss to Illinois last week. Rossi was the team’s defensive line coach this season.
The announced 21-degree weather was the third-coldest start for a game in the 10-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. A light snow fell during much of second half in which Minnesota took control.
Cashman’s fumble return for a touchdown on the opening drive started the half. The Gophers capped their first three offensive possessions of the second half with a touchdown.
“Simplified the game plan, which allows guys to play loose, play fast, give them that confidence out there,” Cashman said of Rossi’s impact. “That’s really important because I think we lost some of that against Illinois when they came out and hit us in the mouth early.”
The longest drive for Purdue, which entered with 485.2 yards per game in Big Ten play, was 30 yards until midway through the fourth quarter when Blough connected with Moore for a 9-yard touchdown pass to cap a 75-yard drive.
“They run the same coverages, a few minor changes, but we couldn’t get the run game going,” Blough said. “We weren’t on all cylinders on the pass game, and it made it easier for them to kind of tee off on us.”
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
After beating then-No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 on Oct. 20, Purdue went on the road and lost to Michigan State 23-13, with their previous worst offensive performance in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers were coming off a 38-36 win against then-No. 19 Iowa last week.
“I’ll take full responsibility for it,” Brohm said. “We didn’t have our guys ready to play. I think we somehow just thought we could just come out there, and the ball would bounce our way, and good things would happen.”
THE TAKEAWAY
Minnesota: The defensive improvement sure changes the perception. The Gophers had allowed at least 30 points in every Big Ten game this season prior to Saturday. Beating Purdue gets Minnesota one game closer to bowl-eligible. The Gophers need a win at home against Northwestern or on the road at Wisconsin, no easy task.

Twins’ Joe Mauer retiring after 15 seasons

By Dave Campbell
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer is retiring after 15 major league seasons, six All-Star games, three Gold Glove awards, three batting titles and 2,123 career hits, all with his hometown Minnesota Twins.
“Thank you, Minnesota Twins, and thank you, fans, for making my career as special and memorable as it was,” Mauer wrote in a full-page ad that will run Sunday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Because of you I can leave the game I love with a full and grateful heart.”
Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million contract expired the day after the World Series ended, creating a natural parting from the game he grew up with in St. Paul, less than 10 miles from the downtown Minneapolis ballparks he called home with the Twins.
“The decision came down to my health and my family,” Mauer wrote. “The risk of a concussion is always there, and I was reminded of that this season when I missed 30 games as a result of diving for a foul ball. That’s all it took this time around and it was all I need to bring me back to the struggles I faced in 2013.”
The first overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School, the same program that produced Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, Mauer made his debut at the Metrodome on April 5, 2004, two weeks before his 21st birthday. He signed his megadeal three weeks before the Twins began playing at Target Field.
Mauer acknowledged down the stretch this season he wasn’t sure yet whether he was interested in continuing to play, with twin 5-year-old daughters at home and a third child on the way for him and his wife, Maddie. Then came the final game of the season on Sept. 30, when he doubled in his last at-bat and donned his catcher’s gear to symbolically take one more pitch in the top of the ninth inning as he tearfully waved to the adorning crowd. Not many players could experience a farewell more poignant than that.
What made the moment so emotional was the fact that Mauer hadn’t been behind the plate since Aug. 19, 2013, when a foul tip banged off his mask and triggered a concussion that forced him to move to first base
“The concussion I experienced that season not only changed my life professionally with a move to first base, but changed me personally as well,” Mauer wrote.
While his athleticism — he had a scholarship waiting for him to play quarterback at Florida State and was a sharpshooting guard on the basketball team in high school — allowed for a relatively smooth transition on defense, the effects of the head injury robbed him of his prowess at the plate for most of the next three years.
As a catcher, easily the game’s most demanding and dangerous position, Mauer’s offensive ability was Hall of Fame-worthy. In 2006, he became the first catcher to lead the league in batting average since 1942. He did so again in 2008 and in 2009, when he hit .365 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage to top the AL in all three categories and win the MVP award. In Mauer’s last 10 games as a catcher before the concussion in 2013, he went 17 for 43 with three doubles, three homers and nine RBIs.
Staying healthy became a challenge, however, and his popularity lessened some in a state usually fiercely proud of homegrown players due to the size of his contract and the amount of his absences.
A knee injury limited his rookie season to 35 games, and a strained left quadriceps had him on the disabled list for more than a month in 2007. Back trouble sidelined him for all of April in 2009, when Mauer still managed to hit 28 home runs, by far his career high. In 2011, soreness and weakness in both of his legs kept him out for more than two months.
Moving to first base allowed him to play more often, but between 2014 and 2016 his cumulative average was just .267 and the three highest strikeout totals of his career came in each of those seasons.
His renaissance came in 2017 as the Twins went from 59-103 to 85-77 and a spot in the AL wild card game, batting .305 with 36 doubles, the second-highest total of his career. That made it easy to see Mauer playing beyond 2018, but in the end he opted to walk away with a .306 batting average and a place in the top five on the team’s career lists in a clear majority of offensive categories. Mauer is their all-time leader in doubles and times on base and second in hits behind Kirby Puckett.

Gashed by long gains, Minnesota D seeks rebound vs. Purdue

By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Favorable field position has meant little for Minnesota this season, as huge gains against the Gophers have piled up as if opponents are playing a video game.
This will be an especially difficult week for the defense to try to stem this tide of long touchdowns, with Purdue’s offense possessing as much quick-strike ability as any team in the Big Ten.
“Explosive players everywhere,” said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, who fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith last weekend after a 55-31 loss at Illinois.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5) has allowed an average of 43 points per conference game, with 32 touchdowns by their foes covering a staggering mean distance of 35 yards. Thirteen of those touchdowns are plays of 40-plus yards, including eight of 60 yards or more.
With fifth-year quarterback David Blough thriving under the direction of coach Jeff Brohm and wide receiver Rondale Moore emerging as one of the nation’s most impactful freshmen, Purdue (5-4, 4-2) has already produced 22 offensive plays this year that netted 40 yards. The Boilermakers are 13th in the FBS with an average of 486 yards per game.
“It’s fun when you come to the facility to work. Coach Brohm is creative. We’re confident because we know we’ve got the best play-caller in the country,” said Blough, who’s second in the Big Ten and 12th in the FBS with an average of 298 passing yards per game.
Purdue’s one-point loss at home to Eastern Michigan on a last-second field goal still hurts a little, despite the potentially program-elevating 29-point victory last month against Ohio State and the two-point win over Iowa last week, because the Boilermakers have not yet secured eligibility for a bowl game thanks to their 0-3 start.
With Purdue lugging a 12-game losing streak to Wisconsin when they play on Nov. 17, the Boilermakers don’t want to put themselves in the precarious position of needing to win at rival Indiana on Nov. 24 to extend their season. So they’ll have to be wary of a letdown against the Gophers, having opened as nine-point favorites.
Of course, the Boilermakers remain in the race for the West Division title, the greatest reminder to avoid overlooking reeling Minnesota. First-place Northwestern owns the tiebreaker, having defeated Purdue in the opener, but the Wildcats play at Iowa on Saturday before finishing at Minnesota and against Illinois. Wisconsin plays at Penn State on Saturday and wraps up against Minnesota.
“In our mind, we have to win to advance and stay a contender,” Brohm said.
Here are some other key angles to follow with the game on Saturday afternoon:
WRAP UP: Minnesota allowed 659 total yards to Nebraska and 646 total yards to Illinois, which rank fourth and seventh on the all-time single-game list by opponents. The only other year with multiple entries on the top 10 list was 1983, when the Gophers went 1-10 and infamously lost 84-13 to Nebraska.
Regardless of any issues with scheme or depth, all those big plays allowed by the Gophers have signified a glaring problem with the basics of pursuit angles and completing tackles. Interim defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, who was the defensive coordinator at Rutgers before joining Fleck’s staff before last season, made a point to intensify the practices this week.
“We just want to leave it better than we found it,” Rossi said.
SLOWER GOING
In addition to the potential spark the Gophers could find with the new voice directing their defense, they’ll have another factor on their side: a predicted high temperature of 27 degrees.
“Our guys are going to have to have some toughness and be able to play strong, play through the elements and find ways to win,” Brohm said.
AIR IT OUT
With freshman Rashod Bateman coming off a 175-yard game against Illinois and junior Tyler Johnson leading the conference in receiving yards, one spot ahead of Moore, the Gophers can match the Boilermakers through the air. Purdue is third-to-last in the FBS with an average of 296 passing yards per game.
ON THE EDGE
Defensive end Carter Coughlin, who leads the Big Ten with nine sacks, is Minnesota’s best hope of disrupting Blough and the Boilermakers. He could be lined up some against left tackle Eric Swingler, who has stepped in for the injured Grant Hermanns for a second straight year. Coughlin described his mood after the Illinois game as “beyond angry” after the latest discouraging performance by the defense. He’s expecting improvement on Saturday.
“Without a doubt,” Coughlin said. “I haven’t seen anybody quit.”
LOOKING BACK
Minnesota has a 37-33-3 edge in the all-time series, including 31-12-3 at home. Purdue has lost in each of first four trips to TCF Bank Stadium, allowing an average of 41 points per game, with the last road win over the Gophers coming at the Metrodome on Sept. 22, 2007. The Boilermakers have lost six of the last nine overall.

Welcoming Whalen: Gophers to start season with sellout crowd

By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota has a first team all-conference player coming back with Kenisha Bell, along with Big Ten Freshman of the Year award winner Destiny Pitts and four of the top five scorers from a team that finished 24-9 last season and won an NCAA Tournament game.
When the Gophers start their schedule Friday night in front of a packed house, though, the fans will be most excited to see the head coach.
Lindsay Whalen will take the court with her new team in the opener against New Hampshire, one of the most-anticipated debuts in women’s college basketball this year. Three months after announcing her retirement from the WNBA, Whalen has begun her full-time focus on the program she once helped build .
“I always hoped at some point I would work my way back here. You just don’t know in what timing or in what capacity, so I’m just really thankful and really appreciative of the opportunity and the timing for it all to work out,” Whalen said before practice Thursday afternoon.
The Gophers, who were the first team to miss the cut in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, have naturally been looking forward to this lid-lifter with more eagerness than usual.
The game on the elevated floor at 90-year-old Williams Arena was declared a sellout more than two weeks ago, with an expected crowd around 14,000. Though demand was boosted by steeply discounted tickets offered by the university to help spur sales, the heart of the buzz undoubtedly revolves around the beloved Whalen who first began putting fans in the seats 18 years ago as a freshman point guard who played with as much ferocity as flash.
Four of the five largest crowds in program history came during Whalen’s senior season, including the all-time record of 14,363 to see Penn State on Feb. 8, 2004.
“It always felt full, but to have that true sellout, it was just such a good memory and such an unbelievable feeling as a player that I’m just so excited that they get to experience that and they get to experience what it’s like to play in this arena with all of its history,” Whalen said. “This is a place that, as a kid growing up in Minnesota, I just wanted to come and watch games here. I never dreamt that I would play here. So for me to have them get to experience this is really special.”
With a Big Ten Player of the Year Award, a trip to the NCAA Final Four, four WNBA titles and two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national team, Whalen has plenty of accomplishments with which to command respect from the players. There’s no better way to build their trust, though, than with relatability.
“It’s easy to talk to her for her to understand the things that we’re going through as players,” Bell said.
For some fun at the end of a recent practice, each player tried a half-court shot. They all missed. So Whalen stepped in.
“She was like, ‘All right, let me just do it for you,” Bell said. “So she grabbed the ball and went to half court. Her first try, she made it.”
Always the natural, that Whalen.
“When I played I was never going to be the fastest one or have the best jump shot, but I knew I was always going to be one of the toughest players in the gym no matter what,” she said. “I was going to do everything for my team to win. So I want us to have that edge and toughness where we’re all in this together and are going to figure out a way to get this done.”

Coffey leads Minnesota past overmatched Omaha

By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Amir Coffey opened the season for Minnesota with 18 points in 24 minutes and Daniel Oturu had 14 points and eight rebounds in his college debut, guiding the Gophers to a 104-76 victory over Omaha on Tuesday night.
Dupree McBrayer scored 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range and Jordan Murphy pitched in 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Gophers, who shot 63 percent from the floor and built a 54-26 advantage in points in the paint. Isaiah Washington added 11 assists off the bench.
Zach Jackson led the Mavericks with 21 points. J.T. Gibson, one of four returning starters and a native of Minnesota who starred at Champlin Park High School in the Twin Cities area, added 10 points for Omaha.
Coffey, who played on the wing in his first two seasons and missed 14 games as a sophomore because of a shoulder injury, took over at point guard following the departure of four-year standout Nate Mason. The 6-foot-8 Coffey, who had four assists, went 5 for 7 from the field and made all eight of his free throws.
The Mavericks went more than 6½ minutes into the game without a field goal, including a missed dunk by Matt Pile, until Jackson finally knocked down a jumper in the paint. That gave them a jolt, because they used a 19-6 run capped by a 3-pointer from Gibson to take a 22-20 lead.
The 6-foot-10 Oturu, this season’s prized recruit, had two putbacks, two rebounds and a blocked shot in the final 90 seconds of the first half to help the Gophers pull away. Coffey, fouled behind the arc at the buzzer by Ayo Akinwole, made three free throws for a 50-31 lead at the break.
Three years ago, the Mavericks gave the Gophers a scare on the day after Thanksgiving in 2015 when Gibson and Jackson were freshmen. Omaha pulled within one point with 24 seconds left, and Minnesota missed five of its final eight free throw attempts before pulling out a 93-90 victory.
This was Omaha’s ninth game against a Big Ten opponent since moving to Division I in 2011. The Mavericks have won once, at Iowa on Dec. 3, 2016.
BIG PICTURE
Omaha: Coming off a 9-22 record in 2017-18 and predicted in the preseason Summit League poll to finish eighth out of nine, the Mavericks play their first of five road games against power-conference opponents on the 2018-19 schedule. In upcoming trips to Colorado, Iowa State, Arizona State and 14th-ranked Oregon, they have experience and balance to be competitive, but depth and length are limited. They were outrebounded 41-21, and the Gophers had a 35-18 edge in bench scoring.
Minnesota: Washington, the jewel of last year’s class who had a rocky first season, found freshman Jarvis Omersa with lob passes for a pair of second-half dunks that brought the small crowd of 8,883 to a roar. If he can provide a steady scoring and passing presence in his reserve role, the Gophers could have one of the deepest teams in the conference, particularly when center Eric Curry returns from knee surgery December.
UP NEXT
Omaha: Plays Buena Vista, a Division III school in Iowa, in the home opener on Friday afternoon.
Minnesota: Hosts Utah on Monday night, the first-ever visit by the Utes to Williams Arena.