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Minnesota loses to Rutgers 64-56

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NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota lost to Rutgers at the RAC 64-56. With the loss, the Gophers fall to 10-8 on the season and 4-4 in conference play. Daniel Oturu led all scorers with 19 points.

The Gophers jumped out to an early 10-2 lead with Gabe Kalscheur looking like the Kalscheur of old. They then followed that by turning in the worst defensive rebounding performance I have seen in some time for the rest of the first half. Rutgers went on a 17-2 run and never trailed again from that moment. The Scarlet Knights were extremely physical, a strategy that worked well against Minnesota’s front line. For the game, Rutgers rebounded 47% of their misses. This had two implications for the Gophers. First, they had to play defense for much longer. Ask any hockey player about the fatigue that kicks in after a long defensive shift. In the first half, Minnesota had several defensive possessions of almost a minute. Second, the Gophers handed over free points in the paint because of their inability to clean the glass.

The Gophers want to be a three point shooting team, and are consistently getting open looks on the perimeter. The problem is that they are making a miserable percentage from distance. Minnesota missed six wide open shots on the perimeter. To be clear, these were not “the defense will let that player shoot that all day” wide open. These were shots that came about as part of the offense. The gophers just missed them. If they shoot 50%, this is a different result. Another problem with the three point shooting is that the Gophers were firing shots three to five seconds after bringing the ball past half court. Those were certainly not the best shots available in a possession.

Minnesota buckled down in the second half, though not after ceding Rutgers another double digit lead, by running the ball through Daniel Oturu. Oturu had just two points in the first half, and regularly looked gassed. I attribute some of that to him being regularly arm barred by defenders, but some of that seemed to be him out of sorts. Based on how a lot of the team was playing, the time change (and maybe sickness?) was not helpful. In the second half, Oturu was a different player. He had 17 of his 19 points in the second half (just 6-16 and 1-5 from distance) along with nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal.

Unfortunately for the road team, the defensive rebounding woes returned. Rutgers made two clutch shots late to get the lead back to double digits, and hung on for an eight point win. A wasted opportunity for Minnesota to get a quality Quad 1 win. The magic number remains seven.

Notes

9-28 from deep is heinous.

Jarvis Omersa should have played the vast majority of the minutes down the stretch. Alihan Demir had a miserable offensive night, and the grad transfer is nowhere near as physical and athletic as Omersa on the defensive end.

I am not entirely sure what the last two minute strategy was from the Gophers. Rutgers is a horrific free throw shooting team and the Gophers had fouls to give to extend the game out. Being down just four possessions late strikes me as a perfect time to send the scrubs in for offense-defense foul switching.

Marcus Carr made two prayer three pointers late, but eight points and five assists will not cut it from the clear number two option on the team. Some of that was Rutgers’s length on defense, but Carr seemed a bit off tonight.

Payton Willis had twelve points on 4-8 shooting from distance, which is exactly what I want out of Payton Willis. If he had more help from the rest of three point shooting crowd, and Oturu had not fired up five, the Gophers may have pulled off a steal.

Tre Williams’s had another solid defensive game with some head scratching decisions on offense. I like the freshman a lot, and think that his fearlessness is a skill that will pay off in the future, but I hope his shot selection improves over the rest of the season.