by: Daniel House
Photo: University of Minnesota
This year, the Big Ten may be more competitive than its ever been. Every matchup counts when teams are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. During Sunday's game, Minnesota continued to maximize its opportunities against quality opponents.
The Gophers used a dominant performance from Daniel Oturu to pick up a 75-67 win over No. 19 Michigan. Oturu scored a career-high 30 points as Minnesota secured its second win over a ranked opponent.
Michigan grabbed an 11-point first-half lead, but Minnesota kept fighting back. Forward Alihan Demir had 13 second-half points, including several smooth moves in the post. He is a very efficient player and wins with fantastic footwork. Demir’s dynamic moves perfectly complement Oturu’s skills in the low-post. The Gophers led by five points with 9:51 left, but a three-pointer and aggressive drive by Wolverines guard Zavier Simpson tied the game at 54. Michigan continued to drill shots from downtown and answered small scoring runs. Simpson led the team with 19 points and nine assists.
However, the Gophers completed a 9-0 run in the final minutes to claim an important home victory. Guard Payton Willis hit a cold-blooded three-pointer that put the game on ice for Minnesota.
The Run Down
Right away, Michigan big man Jon Teske got a low post touch and finished a hook shot over Daniel Oturu. Brandon Johns Jr. hit a three-pointer and the Wolverines quickly grabbed a five-point advantage. Early on, Minnesota's guards had trouble driving into the paint against Michigan’s post defense. Gabe Kalscheur and forward Alihan Demir dribbled inside and had the ball knocked away. Guard Payton Willis also drove to the corner, took a bad angle and tossed the ball away. Minnesota quickly committed four turnovers in the first 10 minutes of action.
Like every game this season, Oturu provided the necessary spark. He drove down the lane and finished an easy layup at the rim. A few possessions later, Oturu swished a three-pointer and crashed the offensive glass for a tough put-back. He scored nine of Minnesota’s first 10 points to keep the team within striking distance. The Gophers’ big man was particularly deadly off the dribble. It was apparent head coach Richard Pitino and his staff wanted to isolate Oturu and provide him with opportunities to beat Teske 1-on-1. Oturu notably had room in the high post and executed a beautiful spin move inside. There were several other instances here he was isolated on the low block. During those situations, he often torched Teske with dynamic low-post moves.
However, Michigan was confidently hitting shots from downtown, including a deep trey by Jon Teske. The Wolverines extended their lead to 11 points behind six three-pointers in the opening 16 minutes.
All year, the Gophers’ backcourt has struggled to find a rhythm. Minnesota’s starting guards shot just 2-for-13 over the first 18 minutes. Finally, late in the half, a corner three-pointer by Kalscheur trimmed the Wolverines’ advantage to five points. Kalscheur finished the afternoon with just four points on 1-for-6 shooting, but Carr and Oturu carried the Gophers.
Minnesota closed out the half on an 11-1 run over 4:52. Guard Marcus Carr drove down the lane and completed an acrobatic layup to pull the Gophers within one point at the break. Oturu scored 20 of Minnesota’s 30 first-half points on 9-for-12 shooting.
When Minnesota receives consistent contributions from its backcourt, the offensive rhythm always improves. Carr can naturally shift defenders by dribble penetrating. When this happens, he sets up his teammates by reversing the basketball. Later in the half, ball movement improved, which helped create quality shots. Carr scored 21 points, but tallied a whopping 12 assists. When he is efficiently passing the ball, everything changes for Minnesota. Early in the game, when the Gophers struggled, it was because they were rushing possessions or taking ill-advised shots.
Oturu opened the second half by drilling a smooth mid-range jumper in the high-post. On the next possession, he got position against Teske and drop-stepped for an effortless slam. Carr also continued to be aggressive off the dribble and finished through contact. With 16 minutes remaining, his deep three-pointer helped the Gophers grab a two-point lead. The coaches were creating excellent ball screen action and maximizing the strengths of Oturu. Minnesota also did a fantastic job of defending without fouling. As a team, they committed just four second-half fouls, which kept the main core together.
With 14:35 remaining, fans took a deep breath. Oturu got tangled up under the basket and grabbed his left side. He was down on the court for a few minutes and went to the locker room. He eventually returned at the 10:15 mark and finished the game.
The Gophers will host No. 20 Penn State at Williams Arena Wednesday at 8 p.m. (BTN).
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball