PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With so many Big Ten teams this season getting crushed on the road, it came as no surprise the Gophers continued that trend Sunday.
It wasn’t necessarily the margin — but how his team was outplayed — that had coach Richard Pitino frustrated in a 64-56 loss at Rutgers.
The Gophers (10-8, 4-4), ranked third in the Big Ten with a plus-5.3 rebounding margin entering the game, were beaten 45-35 on the glass. They gave up 15 of Rutgers’ 20 offensive boards in the first half alone.
“They absolutely manhandled us on the offensive glass,” Pitino said. “You can’t win on the road, home, anywhere when you give up 20 offensive rebounds. We were playing good defense. We just weren’t physical enough on the glass.”
Playing in front of their third consecutive sellout crowd, the Scarlet Knights (14-4, 5-2) improved to 11-0 at home after also keeping Minnesota’s sophomore scoring duo of Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr in check for most of the day.
Coming off his 27-point, nine-assist performance in Wednesday’s 75-69 home victory over Penn State, Carr scored only eight points on 2-for-8 shooting, with five assists. Oturu, who finished with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds, finally found his rhythm late in the second half. By then, it was too late for the Gophers, who are 0-6 in true road games this season.
“They were bringing two or three guys to the ball whenever I was attacking,” Carr said. “That’s just them as a team. That’s what they like to do. They’re very aggressive — and they send four guys to the glass.”
Carr and Oturu were the only teammates in the Big Ten both averaging 20 points in Big Ten play. They combined for 53 points vs. Penn State but shot a combined 0-for-8 and totaled just two in the first half Sunday and trailed 34-25.
Jacob Young’s layup extended the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 47-33 with 11:29 left in the second half, but Oturu sparked a 9-2 run with eight straight points, including a jump hook that made it 49-42 around the eight-minute mark.
The Gophers remained within seven points, but Geo Baker ignited the crowd with a corner three-pointer that beat the shot clock for a 59-49 lead with 2:25 left.
Oturu leads the Big Ten with 12 rebounds per game. But Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell had the only double-double Sunday, with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Myles Johnson and Paul Mulcahy had 10 and nine rebounds, respectively.
“We couldn’t get the loose balls and rebounds,” Gophers guard Gabe Kalscheur said. “They were scrappier than we were. We weren’t finding our players and boxing them out.”
Rebounding was not in Minnesota’s favor Sunday, but the Gophers (36.1 % shooting) couldn’t get comfortable offensively, either. Rutgers clogged the lane, but it also did better contesting shots after Payton Willis and Kalscheur had success from beyond the arc in the first half.
Kalscheur only had one field goal after scoring seven of Minnesota’s first 10 points in the game. Willis was the only other Gophers player in double figures, with 12 points on four threes. He went scoreless in the second half.
With Rutgers’ victory, Big Ten teams other than Nebraska and Northwestern are now 39-3 at home in conference play. Minnesota is 9-1 at home this season, including 4-0 in the Big Ten. But the Gophers are 0-4 on the road in conference play, with two of the next three games away from home, including Thursday at Ohio State.
The Scarlet Knights, who haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991, are off to an impressive start, with other home victories over Wisconsin, Penn State and Seton Hall this season.
“Fans are bought in,” Pitino said. “Obviously, [Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell] is doing a great job. I’ve been in a bunch of leagues with good coaches, good teams and good players. There’s nothing like the home courts in this league.”