GOPHERS MEN’S HOOPS vs. No. 9 Maryland
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Carr dishing for record – Marcus Carr is such a talented scorer that you almost forget sometimes he’s one of the top passers in the Big Ten, too. The 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard is probably known more for some of his offensive outburst so far as a Gopher, especially his 35-point game in an upset over then-No. 3 Ohio State at home in December. Carr will try to lead his team to another win over a top-10 opponent Wednesday against No. 9 Maryland, but he’ll also have a chance to put his name in the history books for something other than scoring. The Toronto native needs only five assists to surpass Arriel McDonald’s school’s single-season mark in assists with 179. The fact that Carr will likely get the record with three regular season games left after Wednesday is even more impressive. He’s averaging 6.7 assists this season, which is second in the Big Ten behind Michigan’s Zavier Simpson. Carr outplayed Simpson in a 75-67 win against the Wolverines on Jan. 12 with 21 points, 12 assists and zero turnovers, which was the first 20-point, 12-assist, zero-turnover performance in team history. Don’t be surprised if Carr brings his best Wednesday night against Maryland’s star point guard Anthony Cowan. Carr bounced back from a couple rough games in home losses to Indiana and Iowa with 18 points and seven assists in Sunday’s 83-57 win at Northwestern.
Smith vs. Oturu – Ask Daniel Oturu to name the big men in the Big Ten he studied in the offseason, he’ll tell you that one of them was definitely Maryland’s Jalen Smith. Both Oturu and Smith are 6-10 sophomores with loads of talent and NBA potential (10 scouts are in attendance to watch them). But Smith possessed a dangerous outside shooting touch that Oturu envied. He liked how Smith stretched the floor, so Oturu added that to his game this season. Smith still shoots almost like a guard at 36.5 percent from three-point range on 27 for 74 shooting this season. Oturu isn’t quite as deadly but he became at least a threat from beyond the arc, going from 1 to 15 three-pointers this season. He’s shooting a respectable 32.6 percent as a 240-pound center. His confidence is high too from long distance coming off a career best 3-for-5 shooting on threes with 22 points and 12 rebounds vs. Northwestern. Smith had just eight points on 3-for-8 shooting in Sunday’s 79-72 loss at Ohio State. But that snapped a streak of nine straight double-doubles during Maryland’s nine-game win streak.
Three-point shooting – Can the Gophers repeat their 14 three-pointers from Sunday’s win against the Wildcats? Probably not. That doesn’t mean they will revert back to the team that shot a Big-Ten worst 27 percent from beyond the arc in league games before last weekend. Richard Pitino and Carr talked Tuesday about ball movement being the key to getting several quality shots from three against Northwestern. Spreading the ball around makes sense, because the Gophers don’t just have one outside shooting threat. Carr (3-for-5), Gabe Kalscheur (4-for-9) and Payton Willis (4-for-8) combined to shoot 11-for-22 from deep. The Gophers came just two three-pointers shy of tying the record of 16 set against Michigan State during the 2000-01 season. That year was also the last time Minnesota nailed 14 three-pointers in a Big Ten game at Michigan. This hasn’t been a consistent shooting season for Pitino’s team to say the least, but it seems more of a confidence thing than being horrible shooters. Kalscheur ranks tied for first with Michigan State’s Cassius Winston with a Big Ten-best 63 three-pointers. Willis has missed four games this season, but he still ranks ninth with 49 three-pointers (2.2 threes per game).
Time: 8 p.m. CT, Wednesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota 1-point underdog. Series: The Terrapins hold the edge 9-2, including a 69-60 win in the last meeting on March 8, 2019 in College Park, M.D. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus. Radio: 100.3
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (13-13, 7-9)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 So. 15.4
G – Payton Willis 6-5 Jr. 9.5
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 So. 11.5
F – Alihan Demir 6-9 Sr. 7.2
C – Daniel Oturu 6-10 So. 19.7
Key reserves– Tre’ Williams, G, 6-5, Fr., 3.2 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, So., 2.0 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Sr., 1.4 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, Fr., 2.1 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 143-119 (8th season overall)
Notable: Freshman forward Isaiah Ihnen had combined to score 10 points and four blocks in back-to-back games before missing Sunday's win against Northwestern with a wrist injury. Ihnen is available to play Wednesday against Maryland. The 6-foot-9 German native was the highest rated recruit in Pitino's 2019 class, but he needed time to adjust to the Gophers after being sidelined to start the season with the same right wrist injury. Ihnen's most impressive performance was with five points and three blocks in a home loss against Iowa on Feb. 16. Fellow freshman big man Sam Freeman had five points and two rebounds in just three minutes against Northwestern.
MARYLAND TERRAPINS (22-5, 12-4)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Anthony Cowan 6-0 Sr. 16.4
G – Eric Ayala 6-5 So. 8.5
F – Darryl Morsell 6-5 Jr. 8.4
F – Aaron Wiggins 6-6 So. 10.5
F – Jalen Smith 6-10 So. 15.1
Key reserves – Donta Scott, F, 6-7, Fr., 5.9 ppg; Ricky Lindo Jr., F, 6-8, So., 1.9 ppg; Serrel Smith Jr., G, 6-4, So., 1.4 ppg; Chol Marial, C, 7-2, Fr., 1.0 ppg.
Coach: Mark Turgeon 452-256 (22nd season)
Notable: Maryland hasn’t won a regular season conference title since earning the ACC crown during the 2009-10 season under Gary Williams. But the Terrapins enter Wednesday’s game against the Gophers with a 1 ½-game lead over Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten standings … Cowan leads Maryland with 16.4 points and 4.6 assists per game, but he was held to just 10 points on 1-for-4 shooting and fouled out in Sunday’s loss at Ohio State ...The Terrapins are 9-2 all-time against the Gophers, but both losses have come against Pitino’s teams. They fell 68-63 at the Barn as the No. 5 team in the nation during 2015-16 season ... Maryland ranks 10th in the NET entering Wednesday's game against the Gophers, who are 5-10 in Quadrant 1 games.
Fuller’s prediction (15-11 with picks): Maryland 71, Gophers 66.