The Gophers hadn’t won a true road game all year, and hadn’t won in Columbus since 2005. Both streaks are over after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 62-59 on Thursday night. The victory gets them back above .500 in the Big Ten at 5-4 as they move to 11-8 on the season.
Marcus Carr led Minnesota with 21 points and drilled a game-winning three with three seconds left after a game-tying runner with 43 seconds remaining, putting the finishing touches on a 13-point second-half.
Gabe Kalscheur added 13 of his own, breaking out of a slump and getting into double-digits for the first time in six games.
“We knew we had to break through on the road,” said coach Richard Pitino. “They were really excited."
They should be. There we a number of good performances to get that road win, including:
Protecting the ball. Minnesota finished with a season-low four turnovers and won the points-off-turnovers battle 10-4, a small margin but a big one in a three-point game. Carr had just one in 36 minutes, while Daniel Oturu and Payton Willis played 38 and 36, respectively, without giving it up at all. Just a really excellent performance all around, and something they’re doing much better as a team after a sloppy first few months to start the year.
Gabe Kalscheur. On a night when Oturu was mostly kept in check, going scoreless with just two rebounds in the first half before finishing the game with 11 and 6, Kalscheur stepped up – despite Oturu failing to call out a screen and getting him leveled by 6-9, 270-pound Kaleb Wesson. Kalscheur drilled a three on the Gophers’ first possession and made a crafty, running teardrop a few possessions later for the team’s first five points, adding another three and a beautiful reverse layup before burying a huge three to give the U the lead for good, 54-53, with under five to play. The Gophers are 7-3 when he scores in double-figures.
Marcus Carr. Can’t forget about the man of the hour, though. His final five points swung the game, but his three-pointer early in the second half started an 8-0 run that cut through an 11-point Buckeyes lead, with his layup four minutes cutting it to just one and getting the whole team fired up. Carr finished with 21 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting, adding 7 rebounds and, again, just one turnover. A point guard who can be that productive and efficient is a rare breed.
Now, for the not-so-good:
Bench scoring. The Gophers’ bench was far from productive again, getting out-scored 22-5 by the Buckeyes’. Ohio State is a very deep team, with ten players seeing the court tonight, but it was nonetheless quite a contrast with their guys coming in and moving the ball, leading to open looks, while Tre’ Williams attempted to play hero ball in the corner and missed a wide open Oturu and Jarvis Omersa tried to drive from the top of the key and immediately got it stolen. On the bright side, Isaiah Ihnen shot 1-1 in five minutes, his most game action in Big Ten play. The highest-rated freshman coming into the year, it will be interesting to see if his role increases.
Rebounding. For the second game in a row Minnesota lost the battle on the boards, 37-31, after getting especially worked in the first half to the tune of a 22-12 disadvantage. The Gophers were much better after the break, winning the rebounding battle 19-15, and went up against potential all-Big Ten player Wesson (14) and frontcourt mate Kyle Young (6), among the league’s best scrappers. But two games in a row in which one of their biggest advantages was wiped out is a bit worrisome, and makes clear just how vulnerable they are when Oturu has an off game.
Free-throw shooting. I know, I know, Gophers fans…but it has to be mentioned. Minnesota was just 9-17, the highlights including a miss by Oturu on an empty lane coming off of a flagrant foul, a miss by Payton Willis with 2:13 left in a one-point game, and Oturu missing the front end of a one-and-one with two seconds left, giving Ohio State a game-tying attempt from three. It didn’t go in, thankfully. Only Carr and Oturu made more than one trip to the line, for what seems like the tenth time this year, but I guess if you’re not making them…
Next up is a Sunday home date with Michigan State, winners of nine of ten since losing to Duke and alone atop the Big Ten standings.