Minnesota rebounded from a dud against Wisconsin by beating Ohio State 77-60 at Williams Arena. The Gophers improve to 3-2 in conference play and 10-2 on the season. Robbins led all scorers with 27 points.
There is no doubt that Minnesota was the better team in all phases of the game today. The Gophers jumped all over the Buckeyes early and never looked back. Both Gach had 7 early points-he finished with 10-including a dunk off a well-drawn inbounds play. Ohio State hung around due to some impressive three point shooting to keep it a six point game at the half. In the second half, Minnesota easily extended that lead in the second half to score a comfortable win. The Gophers outshot the Buckeyes, won the rebounding battle, and had more assists and fewer turnovers. Winning all four factor is nice.
It turns out that basketball is easy when your center comes to play. Liam Robbins blew up today. Look at this block.
Robbins was the best player on the court on offense and it was not close. He added 14 rebounds, five blocks, four assists, and two steals to the aformentioned 27 points. It was a Daniel Oturu type performance for Minnesota’s big man. The blocks tell only part of the story because Ohio State shied away from driving the lane whenever Robbins was patrolling. Rim protection, a bunch of points, and getting the other team in foul trouble. Chef’s kiss.
Beyond Robbins, my favorite player made a triumphant return to the court. My favorite player is Gabe Kalscheur’s offense from his freshman year and current Gabe Kalscheur on defense. Kalscheur has been less than stellar on offense for most of the season. Today, he had 13 points on 5-9 shooting and 3-6 from distance, and added five rebounds and three assists. On defense, Kalscheur held Duane Washington Jr. in check (only 7 of Washington’s 21 can be credited against Kalscheur), held Justice Sueing in check when Washington Jr. was off the floor, and continued to put together a 1v1 defense masterclass for every young basketball player.
Minnesota shot 40% from distance for the second time in four games. The Gophers have not lost a game this year when shooting better than 36% from distance, and have lost only twice in the last two years when they shoot 40% or better from deep. Important today was that the vast majority of the three point shots were catch and shoot in rhythm.
Richard Pitino once again out-coached his counterpart. Two moments in particular stand out. In the first half after Marcus Carr was blitzed on high traps several possessions in a row, the Gophers moved to initiating the action from the wing to allow Carr, as well as Jamal Mashburn Jr., to get steam going to the basket. The second was running action to free up Kalscheur on the back side corner for a swing swing pass in the second half when Ohio State tried to double Carr again.
Marcus Carr had an uncharacteristically bad night with 15 points on 3-12 shooting, six rebounds, and three assists. The Gophers still won by 17. As I said in the Michigan State game recap, this team has at least one, maybe two additional gears to go to their potential this season.
Five different Gophers were in double figures.
Minnesota continues the brutal gauntlet of the front end Big Ten schedule at Michigan on Wednesday.