Minnesota defeated Northwestern 74-57 to open up the Big Ten tournament. Daniel Oturu led all scorers with 24 points. With the win, the Gophers slim post-season hopes remain alive.
You would be forgiven for thinking that neither team was aware that a basketball game had to be played today. One possibility for the rough start would be that the world is strange right now. Normally discussing “distractions” is asinine, but in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic every aspect of public events right now is strange. I suspect at least a little of that entered the players’ minds. Alternatively, teams that open tournaments play tight. At the half, the Gophers had just 29 points and were down by two. Every player other than Daniel Oturu struggled to find offense.
Fortunately, basketball is a game of two halves. In the second, Minnesota lit up the scoreboard. The Gophers made 8 of their first 11 three point attempts and finished the game 50% from deep. As a reminder, Minnesota has only lost one game this year when the team three point percentage was 38% or better. Marc Carr was 4-6 from behind the line, Oturu made both of his attempts because he playing on God Mode, and even Alihan Demir made a three pointer. The makes forced Northwestern to space out, at which point Minnesota wreaked havoc on the interior. It turns out that making three point shots turns this team into a deadly offense.
With the game well in-hand, the Gophers could rest their starters for a game in 24 hours that will be played in front of an empty stadium. Say what you will about Pitino’s experience, but if any part of his tenure at FIU is valuable for Big Ten play, it will be preparing a team to compete in front of zero spectators.
Jarvis Omersa did not get to have a highlight reel slam because a Northwestern player checked him (to be clear no foul, just good fast break defense) and I am pissed that we did not get to see Omersa jump out of the gym. Instead, we got to see a missed layup by a different player.
Daniel Oturu was the only player to shoot free throws for Minnesota. I do not remember the last time one team only a single player attempt a free throw.