Gophers lean on Kalscheur’s hot shooting in 86-66 victory over Oklahoma State

The win was Minnesota’s first victory away from home this season.

Guard Gabe Kalscheur goes for a layup at Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Gophers defeated North Dakota 79-56.

Nur B. Adam

Guard Gabe Kalscheur goes for a layup at Williams Arena on Sunday, Nov. 24. The Gophers defeated North Dakota 79-56.

Nick Jungheim

In Minnesota’s 84-71 upset against No. 3 Ohio State on Dec. 15, redshirt sophomore Marcus Carr powered the offense by scoring 35 points. On Saturday’s matchup against Oklahoma State, it was two other sophomores, Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu who led the scoring charge.

Kalscheur and Oturu combined for 56 points as Minnesota (6-5, 1-1 Big Ten) earned its first victory away from The Barn this season, knocking off Oklahoma State (8-3) 86-66 on a neutral court in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After enduring a grueling non-conference schedule, the Gophers earned their second-consecutive victory against a quality opponent.

“Looking back, playing that tough schedule made us better,” head coach Richard Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “It was hard but it made us better, we just got a really quality win.”

Entering the neutral-site contest, Minnesota knew its offense would need to perform well. In their four previous games away from home, the Gophers averaged 59.75 points per game. On Saturday, Minnesota got off to a fast start, scoring on their first two possessions and used a 12-2 run to build a 16-8 lead 6:05 into the game.

Momentum shifted to Oklahoma State in the following minutes, as it tied the game at 24-24 with an extended 14-6 run. Kalscheur responded by hitting his third 3-point shot of the game to put the Gophers back in front. Entering the contest averaging 11.2 points per game, Kalscheur found his shooting touch, scoring 24 points in the first half.

“We were passing the ball, moving the ball, cutting the ball,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “Obviously it helps when Gabe goes 7-9 from three, which he’s perfectly capable of doing.”

Making 5-6 of his first-half 3-point attempts, Kalscheur helped make up for the loss of redshirt junior Payton Willis, who did not play after sustaining a leg injury in Minnesota’s victory over Ohio State last Sunday. Before getting hurt, Willis led the team with 27 3-pointers made.

Shooting 8-10 from the field in the first half, Kalscheur entered the break only one point shy of his career high. Fellow sophomore Oturu scored 12 points on 6-7 shooting. Minnesota scored 22 of the half’s final 29 points to take a 15 point halftime lead.

“The first half we learned that they weren’t great at getting back,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “We started sprinting the court and a lot of good things happened. That’s something I think we can learn from moving forward.”

Minnesota did not miss a beat in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring 10 straight points during a 12-3 scoring run to begin the period. The Gophers’ lead grew to 26 points at the under-12 media timeout, where they led 64-38.

The largest lead for Minnesota came at 9:22 remaining when a 3-pointer by senior Alihan Demir put the Gophers up by 29 points. Oklahoma State battled until the final buzzer, cutting the Minnesota lead to 14, but the Gophers ultimately cruised to a comfortable 20-point victory.

Finishing with a career-high 34 points, Kalscheur led all scorers and made 7-9 threes. Oturu scored 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, the fifth time this season he has scored over 20 points in a game. Carr added nine points and a game-leading eight assists.

Senior Lindy Waters III led the Cowboys with 17 points and freshman Avery Anderson III contributed 16 points off the bench. Oklahoma State’s offense was short-handed on Saturday, as leading scorer sophomore Isaac Likekele missed his fourth-straight game with an illness.

Looking ahead, the Gophers have one week off before hosting Florida International on Dec. 28. After that, Big Ten play will resume at Purdue on Jan. 2.

“This is a fun team,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “Good guys, very coachable, they don’t feel sorry for themselves, they just keep getting better.”