The Minnesota Golden Gophers tipped off the 2019-2010 season Tuesday night, knocking off the Cleveland State Vikings 85-50 and showing off their best Golden State Warriors impression, playing fast and letting it fly all night.
The Gophers led wire-to-wire, jumping out to a 34-13 lead and taking a 38-21 lead into the tunnel at halftime. Sophomore transfer Marcus Carr led the team with 18 points and 8 assists, while sophomore Daniel Oturu had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks, showing off his touch on an efficient 7-of-8 shooting.
All told, these were not your Gophers of years past. Here are two big takeaways from the performance:
Three-point shooting. The 3-point barrage seen in preseason scrimmages was not a mirage. The Gophers let it fly, with five straight threes to start the game and eight of ten shots before the first TV timeout coming from downtown. Twenty-nine of the Gophers’ 57 shots were from downtown, with 13 of their 31 made field goals being threes, the fourth-most in school history.
Reliant on starters. Pitino leaned heavily on his starting lineup, with all five starters playing at least 24 minutes and Carr (33), Kalscheur (33), and Willis (30) going well over. The starters accounted for 70 of the team’s 85 points, including 34 of 38 in the first half. Michael Hurt led the bench with 16 minutes, while Tre’ Williams (15), Jarvis Omersa (13), and Bryan Grenelee (8) also saw some time.
“Good win for our guys,” said Coach Richard Pitino.
More specifically, here was the good:
The Marcus Carr show. Carr, the Pittsburgh transfer, was every bit as productive as advertised, finishing with 18 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds, though he shot just 5-of-13. He played 33 minutes, which might or might not be sustainable going forward.
The new guys can play. In addition to Carr, Payton Willis, Alihan Demir, and Tre’ Williams all showed they can be productive. Willis had 17 points and 8 assists, shooting 5-of-9 from downtown. Demir chipped in 10, showing off his 3-point range and putting the ball on the floor on a couple nice drives to the basket. Williams provided much-needed wing minutes off the bench, and also (have you noticed a theme here?) displayed a nice stroke from downtown.
Jarvis Omersa. Omsera finished with just 8 points and 4 rebounds, but was probably the highest-energy player of the night, diving for loose balls, closing out on shooters, and calling out screens on defense. His off-the-charts athleticism was on display during a second half put-back dunk, so stay tuned for the highlights to come.
…and the not-so-good:
Defense. Yes, they won by 25, but the defense was closer to present than swarming. They let Cleveland State get to the basket more than preferred, especially when Oturu was on the bench, and gave up a lot of good looks on threes. The Vikings shot just 3-of-19 from downtown, but better opponents will make Minnesota pay.
Aggressiveness. The Gophers hardly got to free-throw line, taking just 14 free throws total, many of which came in the second half with the game out of reach. On the plus-side, they made 10-of-14 at the charity stripe.
Carelessness. Seventeen turnovers against a team that has won just 40 games the past four seasons won’t cut it moving forward. Oturu had 6 himself. Pitino mentioned the bigs putting the ball on the floor and the freshmen as contributing to the high total.
All told, the Gophers looked good, not great, but it’s the first game of the season with a mostly new rotation, so don’t panic.
A 35-point win is still a 35-point win, no matter the competition. If Carr and Willis are creating open looks, and Oturu is patrolling the paint, and Carr, Willis, Kalscheur and Demir are hitting from downtown, this could be a fun year.
The Gophers next face Oklahoma on Saturday in Sioux Falls.