There was a reason that Dawson Garcia’s transfer to Minnesota was so highly touted by Golden Gophers fans.
The former Marquette and North Carolina standout shot the Golden Gophers into the finals of the SoCal Challenge Monday night with a jump hook with 6.8 seconds left in overtime that boosted them past upset-minded Cal Baptist 62-61.
Garcia and Minnesota (4-1) will try for their second in-season tournament title in as many years when they meet unbeaten UNLV Wednesday night in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Garcia only had 10 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes Monday night after being slowed with first-half foul trouble. But with the game on the line, he showed up exactly when his team needed him.
“I just caught the ball, the team trusted in me,” Garcia said. “I just felt the defender and I just decided to take a power dribble and go get the bucket for the win.”
The 6-foot-11 Garcia is averaging a team-high 16 points along with 6.4 rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. Preseason All-Big Ten Conference pick Jamison Battle (foot) came back from a four-game absence and played 36 minutes Monday night, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.
Meanwhile, UNLV (5-0) rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to topple Southern Illinois 56-49 in the other semifinal. The Rebels got 18 points from Keshon Gilbert, 16 from EJ Harkless and 14 out of Luis Rodriguez.
UNLV has shot out of the gates under second-year coach Kevin Kruger because of its ability to force turnovers. The Rebels are second in Division I in turnover rate, per kenpom.com, and made the Salukis cough it up 21 times in a 62-possession game.
It was the third straight game in which UNLV rallied from a halftime deficit.
“We have to handle everything that comes across us if we want to play late in the season and be one of those teams that does great things,” Harkless said.
The Rebels own a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series. The teams haven’t met since 2007.
–Field Level Media