ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Jamison Battle scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, Payton Willis added 19 points and Minnesota held off Western Kentucky 73-69 on Friday night in the inaugural Asheville Championship.
Minnesota led by double figures for most of the second half until Dayvion McKnight took over for Western Kentucky. McKnight scored 28 of his career-high 34 points in the second half, including 24 of WKU’s final 28 points.
McKnight was fouled in the lane with 36.3 seconds left and he made two free throws to pull WKU to 70-67. Willis made 1 of 2 free throws with 10.2 seconds left to give Minnesota a four-point lead and after Jairus Hamilton tipped in a WKU miss at 3.2 seconds. E.J. Stephens sealed it with two free throws.
Stephens finished with 18 points for Minnesota (2-0). The Golden Gophers got their second win under first-year coach Ben Johnson, who is a Minnesota alum and former Gopher assistant coach.
Minnesota closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 35-23 lead on Stephens’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. Battle made five 3-pointers in the first half and scored 14 straight Minnesota points late in the first half.
Hamilton scored 12 points for Western Kentucky (1-1), which was picked to finish third in the Conference USA preseason poll. Jamarion Sharp, the tallest player in Division I this season at 7-foot-5, had four points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Luke Frampton, a transfer who became the second player at Davidson to make 100 3-pointers in a season, joining NBA star Stephen Curry, is off to a slow start with WKU this season. He was 0 for 7 from 3-point range in WKU’s opener and missed all five of his attempts from distance against Minnesota.
The shot clock above each backboard were not functioning the entire second half so an arena worker announced the time remaining at 20, 10 and 5 seconds before a countdown from there.
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