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Gophers take down Cleveland State in season opener

Two newcomers lead team in scoring 85-50 victory

Payton Willis and Marcus Carr led the team in scoring in their Gopher debuts.
Photo by Brad Rempel (University of Minnesota)

The Gophers got off to a good start in the opening game of the 2019-20 season, beating the visiting Cleveland State Vikings 85-50.

The story of the game was the output from Gopher newcomers Payton Willis and Marcus Carr. Carr led all scorers with 18 points and filled up the box score with eight assists and seven rebounds. Willis willis wasn’t far behind finishing with 17 points and going 5-8 from deep.

Daniel Oturu was a beast down low, racking 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds to record his first double-double of the season. He showed good touch near the hoop and even flashed a short jumper that was accurate. He ended up going 7-8 from the field and they weren’t just dunks and putbacks, but did turn the ball over six times.

Richard Pitino has said the Gophers would be a shooting team this year, and Minnesota came out firing to begin the game with their first five shots coming from behind the three-point line. That held true as the Gophers took 23 three-point attempts by the 10-minute mark of the second half.

Minnesota took advantage of CSU turnovers early on and scored a whopping 23 points off just 11 turnovers. But the real story was the three-point shooting. which Richard Pitino said would be a focus. The Gophers shot a whopping 29 three pointers, hitting 13, in what is a major departure from the team’s approach last year when it finished near the bottom nationally in three-point offense.

Cleveland State serves as a ramp up for the Gophers, whose schedule gets markedly harder in the coming weeks as they go up against three straight major conference opponents. They head to Sioux Falls to face Oklahoma in a neutral site game, then head to Butler for a true road game as part of the Gavitt Games, before finishing on the road against Utah as the back half of a home-and-home.