GOPHERS MEN'S HOOPS AT PENN STATE
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Carr carrying the load
In the first half of last Saturday's 78-74 loss at Nebraska, Richard Pitino was desperate for a spark when he shouted to Marcus Carr on the court that the Gophers needed him to score 40 points that night.
Easier said than done, right. Not for the U's inflammable junior point guard. Carr scored 21 of his career-high 41 points in the second half, including 15 of the team's last 19 points in the last 7 minutes and 54 seconds of the game.
"Almost willed us to victory," Pitino said. "I'm proud of him. He showed a lot of heart."
Signs were pointing to a big night for Carr when he scored 15 straight points in the first half, but the Gophers were still struggling to stay afloat against the Big Ten's last-place squad.
Carr finished 11-for-27 from the field, 6-for-15 from three-points range and 13-for-16 from the foul line in 40 minutes. Other than points, he set career-highs for field goals, three-point attempts (school record) and steals (four).
Carr's third 30-point game this season ties Amir Coffey (2018-19), Quincy Lewis (1998-99) and Dick Garmaker (1953-54) for most such games in a single-season in team history.
Pitino probably deserves some credit for giving him the early nudge to take over, but the Gophers could've used a more efficient all-around offensive effort.
"I've never said this in a million years, 'Go get 40!'," Pitino said Tuesday. "And he got 41. So, he's a terrific player. I feel bad for him that our numbers are dropping, but he's been great."
The Gophers shot just 34.3% from the field and 26.7% from three-point range Saturday in their fifth straight loss, which dropped them to 0-9 on the road.
Freshman guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. was the only other player in double figures with 12 points. The backcourt besides Carr produced 18 points on 6-for-29 shooting from the field, including 2-for-14 shooting from three. They also shot just 4-for-6 from the foul line.
The Gophers rank second behind only Penn State in the Big Ten and 46th nationally with 25.4 three-point attempts per game this season. But they're last in the Big Ten and 335th nationally shooting 28.9% from beyond the arc.
Minnesota's best three-point shooter in accuracy is Carr at 33.5% this year, but his shooting from beyond the arc is slightly down from 36.1% last season. Not far behind Carr is 7-foot center Liam Robbins at 32.7%. The only other player in the main rotation shooting better than 30% from three is Tre' Williams (30.2%).
Mashburn Jr. is third on the team in three-pointers made (21) behind Carr (54) and Gabe Kalscheur, who has missed the last four games with a broken finger.
Robbins (ankle) and Kalscheur sidelined has limited a struggling three-point shooting team even more from being to consistently hurt opponents from long distance.
Nebraska was worst in the Big Ten in rebounding margin last week until it beat the Gophers and Rutgers on the glass and passed on that distinction. Now the Gophers (minus-3.3) are back at the bottom.
Minnesota won the battle of the boards for three straight games vs. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State earlier in the season. But that wasn't enough to overcome being overpowered on the glass by Illinois twice (minus-18 and minus-10), Iowa twice (minus-17 and minus-6), Michigan twice (minus-9 and minus-4), Maryland (minus-8), Purdue (minus-17) on the road, Northwestern (minus-4) and Nebraska (minus-2).
During a three-game win streak, the Gophers made strides holding their own on the boards. They were barely outrebounded by Rutgers and Purdue (both minus-two), two of the most physical teams in the Big Ten. Minnesota had success crashing the offensive boards, grabbing 16 vs. Rutgers and Nebraska, and then 13 vs. Purdue at home.
Robbins, who had his third double-double this season with 11 points and 10 rebounds vs. Purdue at home, leads the Gophers (6.6) in rebounding this season. But this isn't like years past when Jordan Murphy (twice) and Daniel Oturu (last season) led the Big Ten in rebounding. They were good for 10-12 rebounds every night. Now it has to be more of a team effort.
The Gophers currently rank No. 1 in the Big Ten overall (17.0) in free throws made per game overall, but that number has dropped to 14.3 free throws made in Big Ten games. This season is still a major upgrade from last year when they ranked 285thnationally with 11.5 foul shots made per game. They're getting to the line nearly twice as often and converting 75 percent, ranked fourth in the Big Ten in league games. Getting to the line is obviously a strength for Pitino's team. Getting outshot has been detrimental. They were 5-14 when outshot by their opponent on free throws last season. They're 3-8 in the same situation this season, which included a three-game losing streak.
Carr, who shoots 80% from the foul line, ranks second in the Big Ten with 128 free throws made this season trailing only Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (140). Carr is 42-for-47 from the foul line in his last nine games.
Time: 6 p.m. CT, Wednesday. Where: Bryce Jordan Center. Line: Penn State 5.0-point favorite. Series: Gophers lead the series 29-11, including 83-77 loss Feb. 8, 2020 at Penn State. TV:Big Ten Network. Online/Live video:BTN-PlusRadio: 100.3 KFAN
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (13-12, 6-12)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr. 20.0
G – Jamal Mashburn Jr. 6-2 175 Fr. 7.6
G – Tre' Williams 6-5 195 So. 4.5
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 9.0
F – Eric Curry 6-9 240 Sr. 3.8
Reserves– Both Gach, G, 6-6, Jr., 6.9 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 2.2 ppg; Sam Freeman, C, 6-10, So., 1.0 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 158-134 (9th season overall)
Notable:That Gophers are the only team without a road win in the Big Ten at 0-9 this season. They have 11-game conference road losing streak dating back to last year's win at Northwestern.Carr was averaging 13.1 points per game on 30.3% shooting on the road before his near record-setting performance last Saturday at Nebraska.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (8-13, 5-12)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Jamari Wheeler 6-1 170 Sr. 6.2
G – Izaiah Brockington 6-4 200 Jr. 13.0
G – Myles Dread 6-4 220 Jr. 15.4
G – Myreon Jones 6-3 180 Jr. 8.1
F – John Harrar 6-9 240 Sr. 9.0
Key reserves– Seth Lundy, F, 6-6, So., 9.6 ppg; Trent Buttrick, F, 6-8, Sr., 2.7 ppg; Sam Sessoms, G, 6-0, Jr., 8.0 ppg.
Coach: Jim Ferry 8-13 (1st season)
Notable:The Nittany Lions defeated Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Maryland at home, but they've lost five of their last six games, including 73-52 last week vs. Purdue. Senior big man John Harrar has nine double-figure rebounding games this season, including 10 points and 14 rebounds in a Feb. 23 win vs. Nebraska.
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 16-9): Penn State 75, Gophers 71.