Gophers men’s hoops vs. Loyola Marymount Game 2
FULLER’S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Not so slow start – Imagine trying to generate your own energy from the opening tip playing in front of an entirely empty arena. That wasn’t a reality until what the Gophers faced in the first two games. They better get used to it. Nothing will change anytime soon in college basketball during the pandemic. A slow start in the first meeting Saturday against Loyola Marymount led to a 19-10 deficit midway through the first half. If not for Marcus Carr exploding for 22 of his 28 points in the first half, the Gophers could’ve easily been staring at their first halftime deficit of the season. Utah transfer Both Gach said he noticed LMU having more energy than this teammates in pregame warmups, which carried over. Playing LMU in back-to-back games will give Minnesota a chance to get off to a better start than in Saturday’s 88-73 win.
Carr’s consistency – Carr has opened the 2020-21 season as the best scorer in the Big Ten not named Luka Garza. The 6-foot-2 junior point guard only trails Iowa’s All-American and last year’s NCAA player of the year in points per game in the first two games this season at 31.5, ranking fourth in the nation. His 35 points in the 99-69 season opening win against Wisconsin-Green Bay tied the career high he set last season in an upset over Ohio State at the Barn. Carr averaged 15.4 points, including 16.2 in Big Ten play. The biggest difference so far this season is his efficiency, going from 39.3 to 53.7 percent shooting from the field. It’s a pretty small sample size, but Carr is so far more accurate from three-point range at 43.8 from 36.1 percent last season, which is on 7-for-16 shooting. How long can Carr continue scoring at this level? The Gophers might be the first to slow him down. He could benefit from more rest before Big Ten play, playing 37 minutes in Saturday’s win vs. LMU.
Inside presence – The Gophers would love to have the next Daniel Oturu on their roster. After all, the former Cretin-Derham Hall star and All-America center became the first U player drafted since 2004. But that type of pressure isn’t fair to be placed on his replacement Liam Robbins. The 7-foot Drake transfer joined the Gophers during an unprecedented offseason with COVID-19. Robbins has the talent to become a go-to inside presence, which he displayed averaging a team-high 14.1 points last season as a junior, including a 28-point game as his high. After coming back from an undisclosed injury in the preseason, Robbins has been building up his conditioning and comfort level. After struggling with foul trouble Saturday, the Iowa native finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. His potential is obvious with his ability to stretch the floor (two three-pointers Saturday) and be a rim protector. Senior Brandon Johnson will get the start Monday night alongside Robbins. The 6-8 Western Michigan grad transfer was recovering from an ankle injury last month, but he seems to be getting his legs back. Johnson had eight points and seven rebounds Saturday, including all of his scoring in the second half. Johnson and Robbins were projected to start in the frontcourt, but Richard Pitino wanted to give redshirt senior Eric Curry a chance coming off missing last season with a torn ACL.
Three-point shooting – After two games, the Gophers are shooting just 30.9 percent from three-point range, which is worse than last season (33.7). A big reason for the drop off so far has been a slow start from beyond the arc from junior guard Gabe Kalscheur, who led the team with 76 three-pointers last season. Kalscheur, who ended the regular season tying a school record with eight threes against Nebraska, is 1-for-8 from three this season. For the first time in his career, the former DeLaSalle star didn’t even attempt a three-pointer Saturday vs. LMU. But it’s a good sign that Kalscheur sees it just as important to attack the basket and get to the foul line. You can bet Kalscheur is on the verge of a breakout game. Carr appears to have improved his outside shooting. Gach and freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr. and might be able to help the Gophers from three-point range as well this season.
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Monday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota 14-point favorite. Series: Gophers won the only the second meeting in the series 88-73 on Saturday at home. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTN2go. Radio: 100.3.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (2-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr. 31.5
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 13.0
G – Both Gach 6-6 185 Jr. 15.5
F – Eric Curry 6-9 240 Sr. 4.0
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 10.0
Key reserves– Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 3.5 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Jr., 1.5 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 3.3 ppg; Brandon Johnson, F, 6-8, Sr., 6.0 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 146-122 (9th season overall)
Notable: Eric Curry played his first game since the 2018-19 season in Wednesday’s season opener, finishing with four points, three rebounds and two assists in 14 minutes. Curry, who started the first two games, 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 player from the U’s first NCAA tournament team under Pitino in 2017 … Sophomore guard Tre’ Williams and freshman guard David Mutaf were sidelined in the opener vs. Green Bay, but they both were dressed for Saturday’s game against LMU. Williams had four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS (1-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Joe Quintana 6-8 Jr. 13.5
G – Eli Scott 6-6 Sr. 12.5
F – Dameane Douglas 6-7 So. 13.0
F – Ivan Alipiev 6-7 Jr. 1.0
C – Mattias Markusson 7-3 Sr. 12.5
Key reserves – Keli Leaupepe, F, 6-6, So., 12.0 ppg; Jalin Anderson, G, 6-4, Fr., 11.0 ppg; Quentin Jackson, G, 6-2, Sr., 3.5 ppg.
Coach: Stan Johnson 1-0 (1st season)
Notable: Senior Eli Scott played at Chino Hills High School with Onyeka Okongwu and the Ball brothers, LaMelo and Lonzo. LaMelo Ball was the No. 3 pick in this year’s NBA draft, while Okongwu was the No. 6 pick. Scott led the Lions in points, assists, rebounds, minutes and field goal percentage in 2019-20. Markusson sat out the 2019-20 season for personal reasons when his mother died in Sweden last year. He considered transferring this spring to the Gophers, Louisville and San Diego State before returning to LMU.
Fuller’s score prediction: Gophers 84, LMU 70.