DES MOINES – Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino used the word “dream” to describe Louisville’s versatility, but he probably meant to say “nightmare.” The Cardinals present some of the most difficult matchups the Gophers have seen all season.
Louisville can send out a lineup with five players able to stretch the defense from three-point range, including forwards Jordan Nwora (37.1 percent shooting on threes) and Dwayne Sutton (36.4) and centers Malik Williams (31.8) and Steven Enoch (35.9).
Nwora, a 6-8 junior, leads coach Chris Mack’s team with 75 three-pointers. He had 23 points on 5-for-8 shooting on threes in the Cardinals’ 71-69 loss to No. 2 Duke on Feb. 12.
“The way that they play is a coaches’ dream,” Pitino said. “Five guys that can step out and shoot. Malik can knock down a shot. Enoch is so big down low, and the fact that he could hit a three is a different dimension as well. ... I think Chris does a good job of putting them in the right spots to put you in a bind and make you make decisions.”
The Cardinals ranked second in the ACC in three-point attempts overall (834) and first in free-throw shooting percentage (77.5), which is on pace for a school record.
The Gophers only have one regular shooting over 30 percent from three-point range (freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur at 41.6), and they ranked last in the Big Ten in three-pointers made (178) and threes made per game (5.2).
Stockman not cleared
Senior center Matz Stockman made the trip to Des Moines, but he hasn’t been cleared to play Thursday. He’s a game-time decision as he recovers from a concussion suffered in last week’s Big Ten tournament. Stockman, who transferred from Louisville, has been valuable off the bench, averaging 3.0 points and 2.1 rebounds. The 7-footer from Norway had a career game with seven blocks in a 73-69 upset of then-No. 11 Purdue on March 5.
Stockman’s potential absence would mean more minutes for starting freshman center Daniel Oturu and reserve forwards Jarvis Omersa and Michael Hurt.
“It changes how I have to play,” Oturu said. “I have to play smarter. I can’t pick up any dumb fouls early in the game. Have to play solid defense.”