The hype surrounding this season's Michigan's basketball team was at an all-time high entering Saturday's rematch against the Gophers at Williams Arena.
In fact, there was buzz about the Wolverines arguably being the third-best team in college basketball behind fellow unbeatens Gonzaga and Baylor, the Nos. 1 and 2 teams, respectively.
Few gave the No. 23 Gophers a chance to pull off an upset, but they beat the No. 7 Wolverines 75-57, handing them their first loss.
Liam Robbins had 22 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, and Marcus Carr added 17 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Gophers (11-4, 4-4 Big Ten), who stopped a two-game slide.
"Everyone was really high on them," Robbins said of the Wolverines. "But we were already motivated. We didn't need to see them beat another team for us to want to go get that one. We were embarrassed about what happened in Ann Arbor. We were going to make sure that didn't happen on our home court."
Clearly, Richard Pitino's team felt like it was being overlooked as a Big Ten contender after four road losses by an average of nearly 20 points, including by 25 at Michigan on Jan. 6.
The Gophers were playing their eighth straight ranked Big Ten opponent, a first in school history. They ended that tough stretch with a 4-4 record, including wins over Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State.
"We've had so many phenomenal performances," Pitino said. "Tonight was the best time coming out of that locker room. I thought our guys were really, really engaged and ready to go."
The Wolverines (11-1, 6-1) could still be the team to beat in the Big Ten, having defeated three straight ranked opponents by 19 or more points before their first loss, including No. 9 Wisconsin by 23 on Tuesday. They found out what it was like to be dominated for one game.
Two of Michigan's leading scorers, Hunter Dickinson (nine points) and Franz Wagner (eight points), were held under double figures, while as a team the Wolverines shot 39% and committed 20 turnovers.
Robbins extended Minnesota's seven-point halftime lead to 61-44 with his third three-pointer of the game with seven minutes left. The 7-footer's hook shot off a steal four minutes later made it a 23-point edge with just under three minutes remaining.
The blueprint on how to slow down Minnesota in four losses this season was to make life difficult for the Big Ten's third-leading scorer, Carr, but he got help Saturday.
Carr had just six points on 2-for-10 shooting in the first half, but six others scored for the Gophers, who had 16 points in the paint. Senior big man Eric Curry scored six points off the bench when Robbins got into foul trouble.
Isaiah Livers nailed back-to-back threes to lead Michigan on a 9-0 run that cut it to 24-21. The Gophers were held without field goal for the last 4:52, but they still led 30-23 at halftime.
The Wolverines led by 37 in the second half of their rout in the last meeting by dismantling the Gophers on defense. The tables were turned on Juwan Howard's team Saturday.
"The turnovers were caused by Minnesota doing a very good job defensively being disruptive," Howard said. "Some of the turnovers were caused on our end by not making good decisions with the basketball."
In the second half, the Gophers took a 41-30 lead after Robbins hit back-to-back threes. They were 0-for-12 in the game from long distance before the big man found his stroke.
The Wolverines got within six points, but Robbins' block on Austin Davis led to a three from Gabe Kalscheur. Then two Michigan turnovers led to consecutive dunks on the fast break from Robbins and Carr. Their teammates cheered on the bench as the Gophers responded to take a 13-point lead.
The Gophers, who play Wednesday at Nebraska, shot 61% from the field in the second half and recorded 12 steals overall, the most since the season opener.
"We came out strong and connected on defense," said Kalscheur, who had 10 points. "On the road we weren't playing well on defense and not connected at all. Today we definitely brought that."