Gophers stomp Northwestern to advance in Big Ten tournament

Minnesota faces Iowa in the second round Thursday afternoon.
Publish date:
Big Ten tournament, Gophers

The work goes on, the cause endures, hope still lives, and the dream has not died. The 12th-seeded Gophers opened the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis by knocking off the Northwestern Wildcats 74-57, outscoring Northwestern 45-26 in the second half after trailing by three going into the break.

Daniel Oturu led the way with 24 points as the Gophers connected on 12-of-24 threes, including a blistering 9-14 in the second half, powered the win, though the game itself was overshadowed by the announcement midway through the first half that the remainder of the tournament would be played without fans as a containment measure against the coronavirus pandemic. 

coronavirus sign

“We did a terrific job of adjusting in the second half,” said coach Richard Pitino after the game. “We’re playing good basketball, we’ve just had a couple bounces not go our way. But I think we’re a good team.”

The bounces went their way tonight. Here’s what went down from Indianapolis:

A tale of two halves. The Gophers have started slow on a number of occasions this year, and tonight it nearly cost them at the most inopportune time. Minnesota was just 1-10 from the field before an Isaiah Ihnen three with 13:25 left woke them up. The team recovered to finish the half 9-30 from the field, but shot just 3-10 from distance – Gabe Kalscheur was 0-5 – and was out-scored 16-8 in the paint and 12-5 off the bench as Northwestern took a 31-29 lead into the locker room.

Thankfully, there was another half to play. The U came out firing, going 5-6 in the first 3:25 of the second with Kalscheur and Demir nailing threes, Kalscheur and Oturu hitting jumpers, and Demir following up his own miss at the rim, turning the deficit into a 43-36 lead. Minnesota went 17-35 from the field overall after the break, with back-to-back threes by Payton Willis and a third by Oturu on three consecutive possessions midway through punctuating a 16-2 that put the game away for good.

“I always have confidence in myself to shoot and knock down open shots,” said Willis after the game. “It just so happened those two plays we had good ball movement and I was the recipient.”

Second-half three-point shooting. The total is above, but let’s dive into it just a bit more. After setting a school-record with 18 made threes on Sunday against Nebraska, the Gophers came out cold, going just 3-10 in the first half. They then went a ridiculous 9-14 in the second as Willis, Carr, Kalscheur, Oturu, Demir, and Tre’ Williams all hit from beyond the arc.

“Their three-point shooting can be devastating when they get going,” said Northwestern Chris Collins after the game.

Of additional note is that Kalscheuer, who tied a program record going 8-11 on Sunday, was just 1-8, a number that seems likely to improve moving forward. If the Gophers shoot anywhere close to that and Kalscheur returns to the median, up they’ll have a run in them yet.

Daniel Oturu. Fresh off of being named Minnesota’s first all-American since Quincy Lewis in 1999, receiving a Sporting News third-team selection on Wednesday afternoon, Oturu came to play. He essentially kept the team in the game the first half with 15 of the Gophers’ 29 points, making the most of his ten trips to the line by converting on eight of them. Oturu finished with 24 points and 8 rebounds on 6-10 shooting and a perfect 2-2 from three, a number that could’ve been much higher had he not sat the final nine minutes.

Any extra motivation from being named second-team all-conference earlier in the week? 

“Not really,” said Oturu. “We just came in prepared for Northwestern and we just tried to get a win and that’s what we did.”

It wasn’t pretty from start to finish, but the Gophers ultimately took care of business and live to fight another day. They’ll take on fifth-seeded Iowa tomorrow at roughly 2:25 p.m., about 25 minutes after the end of the noon game, without fans in attendance.

Next Up

protest, Daunte Wright

LIVE UPDATES: Protesters, police clash in Brooklyn Center

Tracking Monday night's clashing between law enforcement and demonstrators.

Tim Gannon

Brooklyn Center recommends firing police chief and officer who shot Daunte Wright

The new acting city manager will make the decision on Tuesday.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 8.54.21 PM

Cop who fatally shot Daunte Wright identified as Kim Potter

She is a 26-year veteran on the police force.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 6.36.53 PM

Chauvin trial: Cardiologist among witnesses as prosecution draws to close

Judge Peter Cahill also rejected the defense's motion to sequester the jury on Monday following a fatal police shooting in Brooklyn Center.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 8.27.03 AM

Medical examiner: Wright died of gunshot wound to the chest

The 20-year-old was killed by a police officer on Sunday, April 11.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 5.44.29 PM

Brooklyn Center fires city manager following Daunte Wright killing

The mayor has taken swift action after being granted extra powers by the city council on Monday.

Brooklyn Center unrest

National Guard presence in Twin Cities to double; 25-30 arrested on Sunday

Gov. Tim Walz said it's 'devastating and heartbreaking that we're here once again' following the killing of Daunte Wright.

Tim Gannon

Brooklyn Center police chief: 'Once we got pelted, we responded in kind'

The police presence will be enhanced Monday and beyond.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 12.05.47 PM

Chief: Officer who killed Daunte Wright meant to use Taser, pulled gun by mistake

Chief Tim Gannon provided the update as Brooklyn Center PD released bodycam footage of Daunte Wright's death.



Big Ten tournament preview: Can the Gophers make a run?

Minnesota has struggled to close out games. Will that change in the conference tourney?

Daniel Oturu

Oturu, Carr lead Gophers to win over Northwestern

Daniel Oturu earned his ninth double-double of the season.


An unforgettable, unprecedented Big Ten tournament experience

BMTN's Mathew Goldstein was covering his first Big Ten men's basketball tournament.

Richard Pitino

Gophers fall in Big Ten road test against Rutgers

It was an ugly Sunday in New Jersey for Minnesota.

Big Ten tournament

Big Ten tournament canceled; no Gophers-Iowa game

Minnesota was scheduled to play Iowa at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Richard Pitino

What it'll take for the Gophers to reach the NCAA tournament

Close out the regular season strong and then make a run in the Big Ten tournament.

Richard Pitino

Iowa rallies late, sends Gophers to costly home loss

The Hawkeyes scored the final 11 points of the game.

Gophers hammered by Hawkeyes in ominous Big Ten opener

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