VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Gophers men’s basketball team boosted its NCAA tournament résumé in a big way Wednesday thanks to a last-second, game-winning shot from a freshman who is already making a habit of hitting big shots.
Washington, a preseason top-25 team, controlled the Vancouver Showcase title game from the outset with its stifling 2-3 zone defense. The Gophers, though, made some late-game adjustments and eked out a 68-66 victory on a three-pointer from Gabe Kalscheur with 2.1 seconds left at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
The play could have been a highlight from the Big Dance if this were late March instead of November.
“That was insane,” senior forward Jordan Murphy said. “That was something you typically see in March Madness or something.”
Less than 24 hours after scoring 25 points (including seven three-pointers) in an 80-66 victory over Santa Clara on Tuesday, Kalscheur threw up a high-arching, off-balance shot from beyond the arc with a defender in his face that dropped through the net to improve the Gophers to 5-0 and help them go undefeated in their first road trip of the season.
“What we wanted to do was that; we wanted to put our best shooter in the corner,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “Obviously, the way that he shot it, I don’t think I envisioned that. He’s a great kid. He deserves success.”
David Crisp’s free throw temporarily halted Minnesota’s late surge to give the Huskies a 66-65 lead with 1:09 to play, but junior guard Amir Coffey drew a charge on Washington’s Jaylen Nowell with 13 seconds left to give his team one last possession in regulation.
Pitino’s plan was to give sophomore guard Isaiah Washington a drive opportunity from the top of the key on a pick-and-roll play. Kalscheur was also an option spotting up on the right side. Washington was cut off after the screen, so he quickly swung the ball.
Kalscheur couldn’t get free with a pump fake, but with time winding down, he sailed a shot over Washington’s Noah Dickerson that swished through the net.
The Huskies (4-2) had one last desperation attempt miss at the buzzer. Kalscheur scored nine points for the Gophers, who also defeated Santa Clara and Texas A&M in the inaugural Vancouver tournament.
The Gophers suffered through injuries to finish with a disappointing 15-17 record last season. With his team now healthy, Pitino is proud to have started strong against a tough schedule — which doesn’t get easier playing at Boston College on Monday.
“We’ve played a challenging nonconference schedule,” Pitino said. “I thought we have substantially gotten better this week. Regardless of winning, I think we really improved. Santa Clara, Texas A&M and Washington all taught us something.”
Dickerson scored a game-high 28 points for the Huskies, who held Minnesota to 26 percent shooting in the first half and led by nine points early in the second half.
The Gophers eventually got more aggressive attacking the zone in the post and on dribble-drives. Coffey scored 11 of his 17 points after halftime, while Murphy scored all of his 18 points in the second half.
After a 7-0 Gophers run, the Huskies responded to take a 66-65 lead on Crisp’s free throw with 1:09 left, but they went scoreless from the field in the last 1:14.
The Gophers were rattled throughout by a stingy Washington defense, but they came up with the critical stop from Coffey and a clutch shot from Kalscheur when it mattered most.
“It gives us a confidence boost,” Murphy said of the victory. “It’s just a good job to keep it rolling.”