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Gophers hammered by Hawkeyes in ominous Big Ten opener

Minnesota's could buy a bucket in their Big Ten opener.

The revenge will have to wait. Three weeks after Iowa spoiled Minnesota’s perfect season on the gridiron, the Hawkeyes did the same to kick off the Big Ten men’s basketball season, defeating the Gophers 72-52 in Iowa City. The Gophers fall to 4-5 on the year.

Iowa led for nearly 38 minutes, and about the only time the Gophers had any momentum was a 7-0 run midway through the second half that made it 55-45. Looking to cut the lead to single digits, Marcus Carr kicked to Tre’ Williams at the top of the key. Williams’ three was blocked by Joe Wieskamp, who got the loose ball and won the race to the other end of the floor, throwing down a thunderous two-handed dunk for two of his game-high 23 points.

The rest of the game was a grab bag of disappointment. Daniel Oturu had 8 turnovers. Gabe Kalscheur shot 0-10. The entire starting lineup had plus-minuses of -13 or worse. And on and on.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said coach Richard Pitino after the game. “We’ve got to get better. It’s very evident.” 

Some of the areas ripe for improvement:

Transition defense. The Gophers’ defense left a lot to be desired, but their transition defense was especially atrocious. After an Alihan Demir bucket on the game’s first possession, Iowa immediately got the ball up court and Weiskamp beat the defense to the three-point line and drilled a three, halting any nascent momentum and offering a summary of things to come. The Gophers were outscored 18-4 on fast break points, which is just not suitable to win games.

Shooting. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Gophers struggled to hit open shots. Minnesota was just 37% from the field and 24% from downtown. But Daniel Oturu was 10-12. Take him away, and you’re left with:

  • 24% from the field on 11-45 shooting
  • 20% from three on 5-25 shooting
  • 42% from the free-throw line on 3-7 shooting

Kalscheur was 0-10, Marcus Carr was 1-10, and Payton Willis was 2-9, going 2-19 from three combined. A three-guard offense with the guards shooting ten percent is also not a recipe for success. The Hawkeyes, by comparison, were 42% from the field, 47% from three on 10-21 shooting, and 71% from the line.

Guard play. The shooting wasn’t there, but it wasn’t just that. Michigan’s three-guard lineup scored 47 against Iowa on Friday by playing smart and aggressive, taking just 14 threes and getting to the free-throw line 22 times. Minnesota guards combined for just two free throws and made zero shots from inside the arc, taking 19 threes and missing 17 of them.

Carr, coming off a career-high 24 points against Clemson, didn’t score for the game’s first 26 minutes. In a game he shot 0-10, Kalscheur finished with zero assists and four fouls. Neither of them got to the line.

On defense, the guards were slow to rotate and displayed poor awareness leading to open looks, something punctuated by Weiskamp exceeding his yearly scoring average with 11 points in the game’s first 4:30. Pitino noted it wasn’t the guards’ fault the team lost, but it was quite a departure from last game’s 45 points on 14-29 shooting and 15 assists.

Outside of those significant problems, there were a few bright spots. The team blocked nine shots. Jarvis Omersa had two himself, and in 14 minutes was the only player with a positive +/- before an Iowa garbage time basket. Demir had 13 points and 5 rebounds on 5-9 shooting, making a few nice passes and grabbing offensive rebounds. And Oturu had another double-double, totaling 22 points and 12 rebounds and holding his own against Luka Garza, who just went for 44 against Michigan. But he was also called for traveling five times. Just one of those nights.

The Gophers have their first Big Ten home game of the year on Sunday, when they host Ohio State. The undefeated Buckeyes, ranked third in the country, are coming off 25- and 32-point wins against North Carolina and Penn State. 

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