Gophers basketball fans getting a first glimpse of the 2018-19 team came away with a pretty clear theme from Sunday’s Maroon and Gold scrimmage:
The offense is ahead of the defense.
The last time the Gophers had this many scoring options was in 2017, when it made a 16-game turnaround and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time under Richard Pitino, who hopes for another bounce-back year from a 15-17 record last season.
“Obviously, the defense wasn’t great. This game was more for the fans,” Pitino said. “To still put some points on the board was good.”
What will Minnesota’s offense look like this season? It will be more than just the Gophers trying to feed Jordan Murphy the ball in the post ad nauseam.
A perfect example was how the Maroon team got freshman center Daniel Oturu heavily involved for the first several possessions Sunday after Murphy attracted instant double teams.
Oturu was the first player in the game to reach double figures with 10 of his 18 points in the first half. Minnesota’s All-Big Ten preseason selection was overshadowed early by the team’s best incoming recruit, but eventually a player playing point guard for the first time stole the show.
Amir Coffey led all scorers with 21 points in the Maroon team’s 64-52 victory. The 6-8 junior appeared to be comfortable facilitating, scoring and making decisions as the primary ballhandler.
Coffey started at point guard Sunday in last weekend’s scrimmage victory against Creighton in Omaha. Pitino didn’t give away all of his plans for how the Gophers will use Coffey differently this season, but the Hopkins native is clearly another reason why scoring likely won’t be a problem this season.
“We have a lot of different options,” Pitino said. “That’s why it’s important for everybody to know multiple positions. Our offense is pretty free-flowing in that regard. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who is bringing the ball up, but it’s who is touching it and holding it.”
A week ago, Minnesota beat Creighton 83-81 in a closed scrimmage, but Matz Stockman only played five minutes. The biggest surprise Sunday was definitely the 7-foot senior leading the Gold team with 17 points. Stockman’s extended playing time came with Eric Curry sidelined because of some knee swelling.
Murphy, who finished with 16 points, eventually got going by attacking the offensive glass and punishing the rim with emphatic dunks, including maybe the highlight of the game on an alley-oop pass from Marcus Carr in the second half.