GOPHERS MEN'S HOOPS AT MICHIGAN
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Carr on the road
Which version of Gophers point guard Marcus Carr shows up Wednesday night at No. 10 Michigan? Minnesota's 10-0 at home this season behind Carr being nearly unstoppable with 23.9 points per game on 48% shooting, including three 30-point efforts. He's definitely deserving of today's honor as one of the 25 players on the Wooden Award midseason watch list for the college player of the year.
But in 15 road games in his Minnesota career, Carr is averaging 13.3 points on 33.9 percent shooting. The Gophers are 3-12 away from home the last two seasons, including 2-10 in the Big Ten.
The junior standout learned in last weekend's 77-60 win against Ohio State that he doesn't always have to carry the scoring load. He ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring with 22 points per game, but he shot just 3-for-12 against the Buckeyes, including one field goal in the first half. The Gophers still picked up their third win against a ranked opponent at home this season. But in the last two seasons, Minnesota has not won a road game when Carr has made three field goals or fewer (0-8), including losses to Illinois and Wisconsin this season (both games he also shot 3-for-12).
Whether Carr is his high-scoring self or not Wednesday, the Gophers need to revisit the balanced offensive attack they showed against Ohio State. Five players scored in double figures, including junior center Liam Robbins game-high 27 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. On the perimeter, starters Both Gach and Gabe Kalscheur and reserve Jamal Mashburn Jr. combined for 33 points and seven of the team's nine three-pointers. A good sign for the Gophers is that Kalscheur has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season (15 points vs. Wisconsin and 13 points vs. Ohio State). Gach, who was averaging just 4.8 points in his first four conference games, also scored his first double figure game in the Big Ten with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting against Ohio State.
Wisconsin and Ohio State double-teamed Carr often on Minnesota's pick-and-roll plays leaving Kalscheur and Gach open in the corner for threes. In the last two games, Carr's averaging just 12.5 points on 23 percent shooting from the field. But that hasn't changed his playmaking mentality, the Gophers' floor leader and captain said recently.
"I still try to attack and get the defense off-balance," Carr said. "I still have to be aggressive off those ball-screens and draw defenders and allow my teammates to make plays from there."
Gophers coach Richard Pitino's offense typically is ball-screen heavy with Carr, but he made some changes to capitalize on a significant height advantage at center in wins against Michigan State and Ohio State. Robbins, a 7-foot, 235-pound junior, had no problem scoring right over the top of 6-7 E.J. Liddell, 6-8 Kyle Young and 6-8 Zed Key for the Buckeyes off high-low offensive sets on Sunday. Those Buckeye bigs are undersized at any level of Division I, especially in the Big Ten. But Pitino had to emphasize getting the ball inside. Robbins had to be aggressive, which he did with 16 of his 27 points in the first half.
Robbins is a rare sight for the Gophers as a true 7-footer with NBA-level talent. He has scored in double figures in eight straight games, but he's been outplayed offensively against opposing centers his size or bigger. The Drake transfer averaged 11 points on 42 percent shooting in losses to Wisconsin and Illinois. Meanwhile, the Illini's 7-foot, 290-pound Kofi Cockburn (33 points and 13 rebounds) and Wisconsin's 6-10, 250-pound Micah Potter (18 points and 11 rebounds) were forces inside. Robbins had 18 points vs. Iowa, but the Hawkeyes' 6-11, 260-pound All-American Luka Garza finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds.
The Wolverines will match the Gophers' size in the middle with 7-1, 255-pound Hunter Dickinson, who won Big Ten freshman of the week Monday. Dickinson, who averages 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in Big Ten play, leads the Big Ten and all high-major players with 71.8 percent shooting from the field this season. Michigan's best NBA prospect is 6-9 sophomore Franz Wagner, who is averaging 17.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his last three games. Wagner, the brother of former Wolverines star Moe Wagner, is coming off an impressive all-around game with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and five assists vs. Northwestern.
The Gophers also rely on 6-9 senior Eric Curry, 6-8 senior Brandon Johnson and 6-9 sophomore Isaiah Ihnen in the frontcourt. But the Gophers lose their size advantage when they go to the bench. Robbins understands how much his size and presence can change the game for the Gophers, so he's aware of opposing teams trying to get him in foul trouble.
"I improved in understanding what gets called," Robbins said. "And how I'm supposed to play defense properly. The fundamental rules of walling up in the post is the main thing. I have a lot of room I need to grow and progress on post defense. I struggled with that a little bit, but I felt like I have taken care of the foul trouble and made strides there. But there is a lot more improvement I need to do to get our team where we want to go."
The Gophers are still last in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (minus-0.8), but they won the battle of the boards for the third straight game 41-39 against Ohio State. They also beat up Michigan State on the glass 52-36 after getting outrebounded by Illinois (minus-18) and Iowa (minus-17) in their first two Big Ten games. Robbins leads the Gophers (7.6) in rebounding this season and picked up his first double figure rebounding game this season with 14 against the Buckeyes. Carr and Kalscheur were the second and third best rebounders against Ohio State with six and five, respectively. The Gophers will need their frontcourt besides Robbins to contribute more on the glass in order to keep Michigan from dominating the battle of the boards Wednesday. The Wolverines rank second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-10). They outrebounded Northwestern 42-28 in
The Gophers currently rank No. 1 in the Big Ten and nationally in free throws made per game (21.6) this season. That's a drastic improvement from last season when they ranked 285th nationally with 11.5 foul shots made per game. In the five early losses in November and early December last year, the Gophers shot just 57.8 percent at the foul line, but they also scored only 9.6 points a game on free throws. Now they're getting to the line more than twice as often and converting 75.5 percent, ranked fourth overall in the Big Ten. Getting to the line is obviously a strength for Pitino's team. But getting outshot at the line isn't as detrimental as it was last year. They were 5-14 when outshot by their opponent on free throws last season. But they're 2-0 in the same situation this season in wins vs. Iowa and Michigan State. Carr, who shoots 79.3 percent on free throws, is tied with Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis for the most made free throws per game (6.1) among Big Ten players this season. The Buckeyes went to a hack-a-Robbins game plan in the last game, but the Gophers' talented big man shot 12-for-18 from the line. Robbins, who shoots 71 percent on free throws, also scored 27 points on 12-for-14 free throws vs. UMKC earlier this season.
The Wolverines don't make as many free throws per game (13.9) as the Gophers, but they lead the Big Ten and rank 22nd nationally in foul shooting percentage (77.6).
Time:7:30 p.m. CT, Wednesday.Where:Crisler Center.Line:Minnesota 7.5-point underdogs.Series:Michigan leads the series 91-61, but the Gophers won the last meeting 75-67 in Minneapolis last season.TV: Big Ten Network.Online/Live video: BTN-Plus.Radio:100.3 KFAN.
NO. 16 MINNESOTA GOPHERS(10-2, 3-2)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr.22.1
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 10.1
G – Both Gach 6-6 185 Jr. 11.0
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 8.3
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 14.2
Key reserves– Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9, Sr., 4.5 ppg; Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 5.0 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 2.6 ppg; Tre' Williams, G, 6-5, So., 3.0 ppg.
Coach:Richard Pitino 155-124 (9th season overall)
Notable: In the Nov. 25 opener against Green Bay, Gophers redshirt senior big man Eric Curry played his first game since the 2018-19 season. Curry, who is averaging 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13.3 minutes this season, bounced back from his second major knee injury after missing last season following a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in preseason practice. The 6-foot-9 Memphis native is the last remaining scholarship player from the U's first NCAA tournament team under Pitino in 2017. Western Michigan graduate transfer Brandon Johnson missed the Dec. 10 win vs. UMKC with a left ankle injury, but he returned the next game in the Big Ten opener at Illinois. Johnson's breakout performance came soon after with a season-high 26 points on 8-for-9 shooting from three-point range in the 102-95 overtime win vs. Iowa on Christmas Day. The Chicago native's three-point percentage in that game was a school record and he tied the single-game record for threes made.
NO. 10 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (9-0, 4-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Mike Smith 5-11 185 Sr. 8.7
G – Eli Brooks 6-1 185 Sr. 9.9
F – Franz Wagner 6-9 220 So. 12.2
F – Isaiah Livers 6-7 230 Sr. 13.9
C – Hunter Dickinson 7-1 255 Fr. 16.9
Key reserves– Chaundee Brown, G, 6-5, Sr., 9.7 ppg; Austin Davis, F, 6-10, Sr., 6.0 ppg; Brandon Johns, Jr., F, 6-8, Jr., 4.4 ppg; Terrance Williams, F, 6-7, Fr., 2.6 ppg;
Coach: Juwan Howard 28-12 (2nd season)
Notable:The Wolverines are the last unbeaten team in the Big Ten and among only two high major teams left with no losses joining No. 2 Baylor. Some analysts might say that Juwan Howard's team hasn't really been tested yet, though. Michigan is playing only its second game vs. a ranked opponent this season, but it did win 85-66 against then-No. 19 Northwestern at home last week. Minnesota and Michigan play twice in the span of 10 days, including the rematch Jan. 16 at Williams Arena.This is the 15th meeting when the Gophers and Wolverines are both ranked, but the first since No. 9 Minnesota lost 83-75 to No. 5 Michigan at the Barn in 2013.
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 8-4):Michigan 76, Gophers 69.