Gophers men’s hoops at Iowa Big Ten opener

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

Oturu vs. Garza – When was the last time two of the top scorers in the Big Ten were centers? So far this season the Gophers and Iowa are turning back the clock. The days of big men dominating basketball in the paint are long gone in the NBA – and the college game picked up on the trend. Tell that to Richard Pitino and Fran McCaffery who have built their offenses around throwing the ball inside to Daniel Oturu and Luke Garza this season. Garza averages a Big Ten-best 22.7 points for the Hawkeyes, which included a career-best 44 points in a 103-91 loss Friday vs. Michigan. That was the most points ever scored by a Iowa big man and the highest scoring game in Crisler Arena history. The 6-foot-11 260-pound junior also averages 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Oturu ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring (17.5), first in rebounding (10.9), second in blocks per game (3.4) and fifth in field goal percentage (62.5). Oturu and Memphis’ James Wiseman, a potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick, are the only two players in the nation this season averaging at least 17 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and shooting 60 percent from the field. Only five players in Division I have done that in a season since 1992-93, including Tim Duncan in 1996-97. This will be the first meeting between Oturu and Garza tonight. Last season, Garza scored a then-career high 25 points in a 92-87 loss on Jan. 27 in Minneapolis. Oturu missed the game with a shoulder injury.

Point guard play – Gophers sophomore Marcus Carr is coming off a career-best 24 points and nine assists in a 78-60 win a week ago against Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Carr bounced back from a season-low four points in Minnesota’s loss Nov. 29 to DePaul. As important as Oturu has been this season, Carr’s play is just as important to the U’s success. In the four previous losses to high-major opponents this year, Carr averaged 11 points on just 26 percent shooting from the field. The Hawkeyes were looking at major point guard issues if senior Jordan Bohannon was out for the year. Bohannon could see his season end at some point with surgery, but he continues to play through a hip injury. Despite being severely limited physically at times, he scored 17 points vs. Syracuse and 20 points vs. Texas Tech in the last four games. Bohannon had just two points in 21 minutes in last year's loss at Minnesota. It was the only game of his career he didn't even attempt a three-pointer.

Road warriors? – The Gophers got off to a horrible start down 16-0 in their last road game in a 73-69 loss Nov. 15 at Utah. That was the closest they came to a victory away from home with losses at Butler and against Oklahoma in Sioux Falls. Winning on the road in the Big Ten hasn’t been easy for Minnesota under Pitino with a 2-8 record last season, including six straight losses in 2018-19. One thing the Gophers can look back on for confidence is the 59-52 win at Wisconsin last season. It was the first victory for the program in Madison in a decade. Veteran guards Amir Coffey and Dupree McBrayer were the story that night with a combined 35 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. But Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Michael Hurt are the only returning players from that team. Those three players are trying to get the seven newcomers prepared mentally for how tough their first Big Ten road game will be tonight. A year ago, the Gophers’ freshmen were in for a rude awakening in a 79-59 loss at Ohio State. Oturu had nine points but wasn’t much of an inside presence. And Kalscheur had zero points in 22 minutes. Hurt is the only player currently on the Gophers roster who has played in Iowa City. The last time the Gophers played at Iowa was in a 94-80 loss on Jan. 30, 2018. Bohannon had 20 points and 10 assists in the game.

GAME INFO

Time: 7 p.m. CT, Monday. Where: Carver Hawkeye Arena. Line: Iowa 5.5-point favorite. Series: Minnesota leads the series 101-88, including winning last meeting 92-87 at home on Jan. 27, 2019. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus. Radio: 100.3.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (4-4)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG 

G – Marcus Carr 6-2 190 So. 14.4

G – Payton Willis 6-5 200 Jr. 12.0

G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 So. 12.1

F – Alihan Demir 6-9 235 Sr. 7.1

C – Daniel Oturu 6-10 245 So. 17.5

Key reserves– Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, So., 3.4 ppg; Tre’ Williams, G, 6-5, Fr., 2.9 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, Fr., 1.5 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Sr., 2.0 ppg.

Coach: Richard Pitino 134-110 (8th season overall)  

Notable: Redshirt junior big man Eric Curry had successful surgery last month on a torn ACL in his right knee suffered during practice Oct. 7. The 6-9 redshirt junior hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year in 2016-17 after tearing ligaments in his left knee in 2017 and foot surgery last season … Freshman forward Isaiah Ihnen scored three points in nine minutes during his season debut vs. Utah on Nov. 15. The 6-foot-9 Ihnen, a four-star recruit from Germany, missed the first three games with a right wrist injury.

IOWA HAWKEYES (6-3) 

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G – Jordan Bohannon 6-1 185 Sr. 9.5

G – Connor McCaffery 6-5 205 So. 7.7

G – C.J. Fredrick 6-3 195 Fr. 10.5

F – Joe Wieskamp 6-6 210 So. 10.7

C – Luke Garza 6-11 260 Jr. 22.7

Key reserves– Joe Toussaint, G, 6-0, Fr., 7.2 ppg; Ryan Kriener, F, 6-10, Sr., 6.1 ppg; Cordell Pemsl, F, 6-9, Jr., 2.7 ppg; Bakari Evelyn, G, 6-2, Sr., 1.7 ppg; Patrick McCaffery, F, 6-9, Fr., 3.0 ppg.

Coach: Fran McCaffery 431-312 (23rd season)  

Notable: The Hawkeyes have one of the biggest differences in offensive (No. 3) and defensive efficiency (No. 128) ranking. They also rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (80.4 points) and 13th in scoring defense (72.8).

Fuller’s prediction (5-3 with picks): Gophers 85, Iowa 80. 

Older Post

Pitino used Bill Belichick's quote to focus on Gophers' strengths

Newer Post

Five biggest reasons for Gophers' five early losses