Monday night was a quality non-conference test for a Gophers team that has injected young talent into their roster. The Utah Utes made a late push into the NIT Tournament championship game and finished 23-12 last season.
Minnesota used strong three-point shooting and active defense to pick up a 78-69 win over an emerging Utah team. Freshman Gabe Kalscheur hit five three-pointers and scored 19 points, leading all Minnesota scorers. Amir Coffey added 14 points and six assists, while senior Jordan Murphy posted his second double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds.
Kalscheur has helped the Gophers defensively by creating deflections and playing as an active on-ball defender. On the offensive end, he hit two early three-pointers off inside-out action to get the scoring going. His energy on both ends of the court is a nice injection to the Gophers’ guard rotation. Kalscheur also delivered a great pass to a cutting Jarvis Omersa, who finished an emphatic dunk down the baseline. All three of the freshmen were contributors on the defensive end and showed flashes of potential in their roles. Minnesota has not had a shooter of Kalscheur’s caliber since Blake Hoffarber. It adds another dimension to the Gophers’ offense off ball reversals. With his ability as a defender, Minnesota is going to have a big threat for opposing reams.
Early in the game, the Utes went on a 9-0 run for more than three minutes as the Gophers struggled to handle Utah’s zone defense. Minnesota was on a scoring drought over 3:20 and had trouble attacking the paint. Jordan Murphy was dribbling too much and it resulted in an offensive foul and turnover. He eventually settled in and was effective when in the high-post as a passer. Murphy had five assists and Minnesota has potential to use him in a high-low look with the team’s depth at center. Isaiah Washington also attacked and left his feet offensively, which led to several ill-advised offensive possessions. Washington had 11 assists in last week’s win over Omaha, but struggled at times throughout this game. He forced several shots and looked like he was pressing as he tried to get into a rhythm. When the Gophers finally got the ball into the paint and got inside-out action, the offense started to click and three-point jumpers fell. They also started to take better care of the basketball after committing six quick turnovers.
The Gophers finally settled in with some quality ball movement. They shared the ball and showed how explosive their offense can be when it fires on all cylinders. Amir Coffey attacked with a big dunk and hit a three-pointer to aid a 12-2 run. Minnesota was very active on the defensive end and held Utah to just 36 percent shooting in the first half. The Utes had to earn every basket and really struggled to hit open three-point jumpers.
In the second half, Utah hit five consecutive shots, including two late jumpers by star player Sedrick Barefield. The Utes trimmed Minnesota’s lead to seven points, but freshman Daniel Oturu had several key finishes via swift post moves. He also had two late blocked shots that provided a major lift on the defensive end. Utah had no successful field goals during a 2:32 stretch late in the game. This helped the Gophers pull away in the late stages.
The Utes also shot just 33 percent from behind the arc and failed to hit open or contested jumpers. Minnesota showed flashes of strong perimeter defense. After having trouble closing out last year, the Gophers displayed more consistency in this category throughout the night. Jordan Murphy’s hustle on both ends of the court was extremely impressive, as well. He had ten rebounds in 12 first half minutes and grabbed his second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 17 boards. The Gophers were fighting through screens and contesting almost all of the Utah jumpers.
Minnesota was tested early as Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu both had two fouls within the first 13 minutes. It meant Matz Stockman was used more frequently on a rotational basis. Richard Pitino has indicated Stockman is most effective in short bursts and it was clear as Minnesota heavily mixed him in. He was really solid as a help side defender in the post and delivered two huge blocks. Minnesota has depth at the five spot this year because of Stockman’s defensive ability and reliable hands in the post. The main area he must improve is playing defense without fouling. He had four fouls with 14:19 left and has to be more disciplined as an aggressive defender. However, his value coming off the bench is unmatched for a Gophers team that hasn’t featured this type of depth in the low post before.
When Eric Curry returns, Minnesota will have several dynamic options for teams to handle in the paint. It’s an added bonus, especially considering there is sure to be foul trouble at stages of important games this year.
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball