The Gophers lost their second straight game to a major conference opponent on Tuesday night, falling 64-56 to the Butler Bulldogs. The 53rd straight loss for a non-conference opponent at Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Gophers dropped to 1-2 following a season-opening win against Cleveland State.
Minnesota had no answer for Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, who finished with 27 points, 18 of which came in the second half.
Sophomore Daniel Oturu led the Gophers with a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds while sophomore Payton Willis had 13 and sophomore Marcus Carr added 9 points and 7 assists, but battled foul trouble, and the team struggled mightily with him on the bench.
After picking up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes, Carr sat for nearly ten minutes, during which the Gophers scored just six points. After a Gabe Kalscheur three put the Gophers up 39-38 halfway through the second half, Carr picked up his fourth foul and left the court, whereupon Butler went on an 8-0 run and never looked back.
The flaws the Gophers displayed their first two games were even more prevalent against Butler: poor shooting, turnovers, lack of depth.
- Poor shooting. Oturu was 9-13 and 2-2 from downtown, but the rest of the team shot 8-37 and 4-21, respectively, just 34% (17-50) from the field and 26% (6-23) from beyond the arc. Carr (1-10), Willis (4-13), and Kalscheur (3-9) shot a combined 4-19 from distance. The team was 16-21 from the free throw line, but Carr missed three in the final 2:04.
- Turnovers. The Gophers turned the ball over 18 times and Butler took advantage, outscoring them 22-2 in points off turnovers. Finishing with just 12 assists, this was the second straight game Minnesota had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. No way around it, that’ll have to get better.
- Lack of depth. This was perhaps the most damning aspect of the night. The bench finished with 0 points and took just one shot, a missed three by Tre’ Williams. Jarvis Omersa was the most productive player but fouled out. Williams also battled foul trouble and finished with four. Michael Hurt didn’t play in the second half, and Bryan Greenlee saw just one minute of game time again.
There were fewer positives in this game than Minnesota had in the loss to Oklahoma, but there were still some.
As a team, the Gophers played good, aggressive defense, holding Butler to just 38% shooting, and won the rebounding battle, 35-34.
Oturu was phenomenal again, hitting a three on the first possession of the game and never looking back, with 14 first-half points keeping Minnesota in the game while Carr was on the bench. As noted after the Oklahoma game, Oturu is beginning to look like a potential All-Big Ten player.
Omersa also played well, and the coaching staff took notice as he started the second half. He finished with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block but played better than the numbers suggest, battling on the offensive glass all night and making a number of good outlet and entry passes. Keep an eye out to see if he moves into the starting lineup.
That’s…basically it. Kalscheur had a beautiful baseline drive he finished with a reverse layup. Willis hit a big three to momentarily stop a Butler run. They’re both good players, and their shots will start falling.
And again – this is not a bad loss. Kentucky losing at home to Evansville, as happened earlier in the night, was a bad loss. Nebraska losing at home to Southern Utah is a bad loss. These young Gophers largely held their own in one of the country’s toughest environments.
As the season continues and the team continues to grow, these close losses might start turning into wins. Next up is a trip to Utah on Friday (gulp).