Minnesota lost to Penn State in Happy Valley 83-76. With the loss, the Gophers drop to 6-7 in conference play and 12-11 on the season. Daniel Oturu led Minnesota’s scorers with 32 points.
In a game that saw me be as aggravated as a fan can be about 1. ultimately frivolous entertainment and 2. a game not involving Wisconsin, the Gophers showed in perfect detail why they are a bubble team. In the first half, everyone not named Daniel Oturu decided it was unimportant to show up for the game. The Gophers had just 22 points at halftime and were down 14 points. That deficit grew to as many as 19 points with thirteen minutes to play in the second half. It was the kind of performance that has caused me to simply put a picture of a tire fire as the recap.
That is the bad performance that the team is capable. At the thirteen minute mark of the second half, the Gophers turned around and played like the good version of the team that obliterates opponents at home. Minnesota scored 42 points in the last thirteen minutes of the game. Marcus Carr remembered that he is, in fact, a very good basketball player. Carr had just two points in the first half and finished the game with 20. Those 18 points included three makes from beyond the arc, and an and one. Carr had no assists in the first half, and five in the second half.
Still a nineteen point deficit is rarely one that can be overcome, and a miss on the front end of a 1 and 1 by Oturu followed by a quick 6-0 run by Penn State ended up sealing the game. The Gophers made it interesting over the last minute, but emerge with another road loss. Such is the nature of being a bubble team. The magic number remains at 5.
Daniel Oturu had 30 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and went 8-9 from the free throw line. None of those numbers are surprising, which should explain how good he has been this season.
In the first half, Richard Pitino felt (incorrectly based on the result) that Alihan Demir could guard Lamar Stevens. This was an error as Stevens promptly put up 21 points. In the second half, Daniel Oturu got the assignment, and Stevens was held to (non purposeful foul free throws) 8 points when Oturu got the assignment. I suspect this will be helpful tape for the NBA scouts.
Gabe Kalscheur was 3-6 from distance before having to put up two heaves with the clock running out. Slowly but surely, Kalscheur is improving his percentage from distance. As fans, we all need to hope that he can kick it up another gear over the remaining Big Ten schedule.
Payton Willis followed a phenomenal game with a brutal game on offense.
Isaiah Ihnen picked up a steal solely based on length. I like that he’s seeing more minutes. If I have a quibble with Pitino’s coaching decisions in the second half, it was putting Demir back in instead of continuing to play Ihnen or spell Ihnen with Omersa. Pat Chambers went big and Demir had mismatches all night. Given the Demir only had four points, the defensive weakness was a noticeable minus.
The Gophers get a week off to prepare for a home game against Iowa on February 16th. That game will be about as close to a must win as possible without being a literal must win. You should go and support the team at the Barn if you have the opportunity.