MINNEAPOLIS — Dawson Garcia scored 23 points, Ta’lon Cooper had 17 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists and Minnesota edged Western Michigan 61-60 on Monday night in a season opener.
Garcia made a 3-pointer, his third of the game, from the top of the key with 1:54 left to extend Minnesota's lead to 59-50 and Taurus Samuels made 1 of 2 free throws with 20 seconds left to make it 61-54.
Garcia and Cooper are two of three transfers who joined the Gophers this season, with Garcia coming back home to his native state after stints at Marquette and North Carolina. Garcia started 12 of 16 games for the national runner-up Tar Heels before leaving the team at midseason to move home due to family health concerns. Cooper is from Morehead State.
The Gophers played without star Jamison Battle, who had minor foot surgery on Oct. 28 and has not yet been cleared to return. The third-year forward was picked for the 11-player preseason All-Big Ten team, the third-leading scorer among returners in the conference. Freshman guard Braeden Carrington was also sidelined by an ankle injury, delaying his debut with his home-state team.
Lamar Norman Jr. scored 15 points and Seth Hubbard added 13 for Western Michigan. Markeese Hastings grabbed 10 rebounds.
Minnesota hosts St. Francis Brooklyn on Friday and DePaul and Central Michigan next week before hitting the road.