The Gophers knew Daniel Oturu’s absence Sunday would be difficult to overcome, but Eric Curry and Matz Stockman rose to the challenge in a 92-87 win against Iowa.
Oturu, who missed his first career game Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury in practice, was averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and a team-best 1.7 blocks in 19 games, including 18 starts this season. The 6-10 former Cretin-Derham Hall standout was in street clothes watching Curry and Stockman help the Gophers compete inside against a formidable Hawkeyes frontcourt.
“With Daniel being out, we knew someone had to step up,” forward Jordan Murphy said. “I think Matz gave us some really good minutes and really good moments out there. I think something for him to grow on and capitalize on. He’s doing a lot better in practice as well. Eric being able to step up while Daniel’s not playing was really cool to see.”
Curry, who missed the first 12 games this season recovering from his second knee surgery, finished with eight points, three assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes. Stockman had six points, two rebounds and a steal in 16 minutes.
The timetable for Oturu’s recovery appears to be day to day. Gophers coach Richard Pitino is hopeful his talented young center will return to play Wednesday against Illinois.
“He was clearly not ready to play today,” Pitino said. “I don’t think it’s extremely serious. It’s a different shoulder. It’s one of those things where we needed to get him back to get some reps in practice. He wasn’t able to do that.”
It was expected for Curry, a 6-9 redshirt sophomore, to play major minutes even if Oturu was healthy Sunday against Iowa’s frontcourt duo of Tyler Cook and Luke Garza, who combined for 43 points. Curry had replaced Oturu as the starting center earlier in the week in a loss at Michigan, because he had more experience playing against physically tough post players in the Big Ten. The real surprise was Stockman, who hadn’t played at all in the previous two games.
“I thought Matz was terrific off the bench,” Pitino said. “I can’t talk enough about what he brought. To go from a guy who didn’t play a lot and hardly played, he didn’t feel sorry for himself. He had great energy and body language.”
Murphy’s No. 2
Murphy, a senior captain and forward, is now second on the Big Ten’s career rebounding list after surpassing former Purdue star Joe Barry Carroll on Sunday. The 6-7 San Antonio native and the Gophers’ top career rebounder has 1,150 boards in four seasons. The only player ahead of him in the conference’s history is Ohio State legend Jerry Lucas, who had 1,411 rebounds from 1959-62.
“It’s pretty cool to be recognized for something like that,” he said. “Being at my size, it’s pretty cool. I’m going to continue to emphasize it and sticking with it for the rest of the season.”