After playing the best game of his young basketball career Sunday night to upset No. 3-ranked Ohio State, Marcus Carr was swallowed up by the Gophers’ student section near midcourt on Williams Arena’s raised floor.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” the sophomore guard said of the court-storming. “Once you see the rush of the fans coming through, it was a great experience. I’m usually not really into that kind of stuff to be around a bunch of people, but the crowd was great for us tonight.”
This was different from the celebration he was a part of as a sit-out transfer last season when his teammates beat No. 11 Purdue on Senior Night.
Carr was leading the Gophers this time. He wanted them be taken seriously despite a losing record in the first month of the season.
After opening Big Ten play with a tough road loss in which he struggled, Carr’s career-high 35 points treated the home crowd to the program’s biggest win in nearly a decade, an 84-71 upset of the Buckeyes in front of an announced 9,854.
“It wasn’t a performance I wanted to have,” Carr said about his two points on 1-for-10 shooting in the 72-52 loss last Monday in Iowa City. “Definitely had an emphasis coming into tonight of re-establishing what we wanted to do and the type of team we wanted to be moving forward.”
The Gophers (5-5, 1-1 Big Ten), who regrouped after a 20-point loss at Iowa, hadn’t beaten a top-five opponent in the Associated Press poll since No. 1 Indiana fell at the Barn on Feb. 27, 2013. Their last win against an AP top-10 team was vs. No. 6 Maryland in 2016.
The way top-10 teams have been dropping this season, the Gophers had the mind-set to join the party. Penn State defeated No. 4 Maryland and Illinois defeated No. 5 Michigan earlier this week. Big Ten teams are 13-0 at home through Sunday.
“If we want to get back to the NCAA tournament, you have to get quality wins,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “This is obviously, I would assume, a Quad 1 win.”
The Buckeyes (9-1, 1-1) were looking like a candidate to rise to No. 1 after beating teams by an average of 22 points, including Villanova and North Carolina. But Minnesota held them to a season-low 38.3% shooting.
Gophers sophomore Daniel Oturu (14 points, 13 rebounds) got the best of an intriguing center matchup with Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson, who was held to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting and committed six turnovers.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann had to go without starting guard Duane Washington (rib injury), but he didn’t think that was the reason Carr blitzed Ohio State’s defense for 28 points in the second half.
“They were physically tougher,” said. “I’ve got to coach that better.”
The Buckeyes (9-1) cut an 18-point deficit to 69-60 after a three-point play from E.J. Liddell near the four-minute mark in the second half, but Carr answered with 10 of the next 12 points. His high-arching three-pointer with 43 seconds to play was the exclamation point.
Pitino said the only thing he wrote on the whiteboard before the game was “play hard.” Carr delivered, and so did a backcourt mate who also had a horrid Big Ten opener.
Sophomore guard Gabe Kalscheur, who went scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting vs. Iowa, attacked the basket instead of settling for jumpers and scored 15 points.
“Something that is non-negotiable is playing hard,” Oturu said. “That was big emphasis in practice leading up to this game.”