Gophers take down No. 19 Michigan

The Gophers mens basketball team earned their second top-25 win of the season.

Gophers players surround Center Daniel Oturu as he lies on the floor after a foul at Williams Arena on Sunday, Jan. 12. Minnesota defeated Michigan 75-67. (Nur B. Adam / Minnesota Daily)

Nur B. Adam

Gophers players surround Center Daniel Oturu as he lies on the floor after a foul at Williams Arena on Sunday, Jan. 12. Minnesota defeated Michigan 75-67. (Nur B. Adam / Minnesota Daily)

by Matthew Kennedy

The Minnesota Gophers upset the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines 75-67 Sunday in a bounce-back win for head coach Richard Pitino’s squad after losing 74-58 to No. 8 Michigan State just three days earlier. 

Daniel Oturu had a career game finishing with 30 points and seven rebounds despite being out for a portion of the second half due to injury. 

Minnesota fell behind early as sharpshooters Franz Wagner and David DeJulius helped Michigan run out of the gates with a 16-7 lead.

The Gophers weathered the storm and cut the lead to one at half thanks to a 12-0 run before time expired. The run was spearheaded by a 20-point performance in the half by Oturu. 

“The kid is special,” Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said of Oturu after the game.

Once the Gophers returned from halftime, the game was a back and forth frenzy. Both teams scored on nearly every possession. Following a Michigan turnover, Gophers guard Marcus Carr found Oturu for an alley-oop dunk that gave Minnesota a 45-41 lead and set the crowd ablaze. 

Then, disaster struck. Following a scrum for the ball, Oturu fell hard on his shoulder. Writhing in pain, the sophomore big man laid on the ground for several minutes before being helped off the court and into the locker room.

The Minnesota offense that — up until that moment — had been dominated by Oturu suddenly needed answers.

Those answers came courtesy of Carr and forward Alihan Demir, who stepped up for the Gophers and filled the hole left by Oturu. Demir finished with 13 points, while Carr tallied with 21. 

With just under 12 minutes to play and Minnesota up 49-47, the Gophers faithful rose to their feet as Oturu made his way back into the game. 

“He’s had some shoulder issues in the past, he even missed a game against Iowa at home,” Pitino said. “It was important to find a guy to step up when he was out and Marcus Carr did that. Demir was also terrific showing great patience down low. He made some huge baskets for us as well, with Dan out, and helping secure the win for us down the stretch.” 

However, there was still much left for the Gophers to do. 

Michigan’s Franz Wagner hit the third of his four 3-point buckets to tie the game at 57. 

Then, minutes later, two 3-pointers from Eli Brooks and Zavier Simpson gave Michigan the lead once more. 

Michigan’s foul-happy tendency in the second half proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Wolverines as Minnesota was in the double bonus for a large portion of the final half. Carr swished two free throws to lengthen the Minnesota lead to five. Shortly after, Payton Willis scored his first bucket of the game at a perfect time. By arching a 3-pointer through the net, Willis gave the Gophers an eight-point — seemingly insurmountable — lead with little time remaining in the contest. Michigan struggled to score for the rest of the game and the Gophers went to the line multiple times on intentional fouls by a desperate Wolverines squad, leading to a convincing victory. 

Minnesota finished the game with only five turnovers thanks to excellent ball handling by Carr and the rest of the guards. The win is a huge resume booster for the team’s quest to make a second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Up next the Gophers have another tough task at home versus No. 20 Penn State. 

“It’s bigger than just one guy,” Oturu said. “This team can go places and shock a lot of people and today was a good step forward bouncing back from a tough loss.” 

When Oturu was out of the game due to his injury, the Gophers never lost the lead, proving it may not just be a one-man show this season.