CHICAGO — Dawson Garcia had 18 points, 13 rebounds and six assists and Ta'lon Cooper had 16 points and set the program record for assists in a Big Ten Tournament game with 12 to help Minnesota beat Nebraska 78-75 Wednesday night in an opening-round game.
The 14th-seeded Golden Gophers, who have won two of their last three following a 12-game skid, play No. 6 seed Maryland in the second round Thursday. The Terrapins swept the season series with Minnesota, winning the two games by a combined 53 points.
Garcia has three double-doubles this season — all against the Cornhuskers. Jaden Henley added 14 points for Minnesota (9-21) and Jamison Battle scored 13 with eight rebounds.
Henley was fouled on a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and hit all three free throws to give Minnesota a six-point lead with three minutes to go. Sam Griesel scored back-to-back contested baskets to pull the Cornhuskers to 63-61 with 1:39 remaining but Nebraska was called for offensive fouls on their next two possessions before Cooper made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Golden Gophers up by three with 27 seconds to go.
Griesel went high in the air to snag a long inbounds pass and then hit a cutting Keisei Tominaga for a layup to make it 64-63 with 20 seconds left. But Cooper hit 3 of 4 from the free throw-line from there — and Tominaga missed a potential tying shot from near midcourt at the buzzer.
Tominaga led No. 11 seed Nebraska (16-16) with 23 points, his 10th straight game scoring in double figures, including seven with at least 20. Griesel scored all his 16 points in the second half and finished with 12 rebounds and four assists. Jamarques Lawrence and Derrick Walker Jr. added 12 points apiece.
Minnesota committed four turnovers and started 0 for 4 from the field before Lawrence was fouled as he banked in a 3-pointer and hit the and-1 free throw to give the Cornhuskers an 8-0 lead about four minutes into the game.
Garcia hit a 3-pointer that gave the Gophers the lead for good at 18-16 with 8:32 left in the first half and Nebraska trailed the rest of the way.
Minnesota shot 52% (27 of 52) from the field, made 10 of 24 from 3-point range and had a season-high 25 assists.
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