Gophers dominate Minnesota-Duluth in exhibition game

Minnesota had no problems handling visiting Bulldogs.

Nick Jungheim

On the first day of November, Minnesota dawned their game jerseys for the first time since the last day of February.  As expected, the outcome last night was much different than that evening eight months ago when they lost to Rutgers at Madison Square Garden.

The Gophers had no issues imposing their will on visiting Minnesota-Duluth, getting into the paint early and often en route to a 109-53 victory.  As with any exhibition game, the contest was more about getting the team ready for the season ahead than the final score.

“They were flying up the court, doing a lot of good things,” head coach Rick Pitino said of his players.  “We were very, very unselfish.”

To say Minnesota started hot is an understatement.  The Gophers didn’t miss a shot from the field until nearly 11 minutes into the game.  

In his weekly blog, Pitino wrote that the team needed to improve its shot selection and feed the post.  Minnesota succeeded on both fronts shooting 67% and scoring 52 points in the paint.

“We put an emphasis on getting the ball out quick,” Pitino said.  “I like what I see. There weren’t too many bad shots.”

The Gophers came out right away and played with an energy that they didn’t have for much of last season.  They continued to steadily build their lead throughout the first half and went into the intermission with a 61-25 lead.  Starters sat out most of the second half as Minnesota cruised to a 56 point victory.

“When we rebound the ball, we’re able to get out and run,”  said junior Michael Hurt.  “We’re really unselfish.  [Pitino] really emphasized getting out and running, getting a lot of transition buckets, not wanting to have run a whole lot of sets.  I don’t think we ran one set the whole night.”

Two freshmen started for the Gophers, Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur.  Due to an injury to redshirt sophomore Eric Curry, who is expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee, Oturu got an opportunity to join the starting five.  He performed well in his debut posting a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Redshirt senior Matz Stockman also got a chance to play increased minutes in Curry’s absence.   The 7-foot center from Oslo, Norway made his Minnesota debut after transferring from Louisville, where he played under Pitino’s father, Rick Pitino.  Stockman returned to the court after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“It feels great,” Stockman said about getting back on the court.  “It feels good because last year, sitting out, that sucked.”

Plenty of familiar faces suited up for the Gophers as well.  Junior Amir Coffey returned to the court for the first time since a shoulder injury cut his 2017-18 season short.  Seniors Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy both scored in double-digits with 11 points each.  Other players to eclipse the 10 point mark were Kalscheur, freshman Jarvis Omersa, redshirt senior Brock Stull and sophomore Isaiah Washington, who led the team with 18 points.

The next game the Gophers play will count for real.  They begin the regular season against Nebraska-Omaha on November 6 at Williams Arena.

“It was good,” Pitino said to sum up the night.  “We got a lot out of it, and move on obviously, turn out attention to Omaha.”