Gophers win season opener over Green Bay

Marcus Carr dominated his season debut and led the Gophers with 35 points in their season opening win.

Center+Daniel+Oturu+leaps+to+block+an+opponent+at+Williams+Arena+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+5.+The+Gophers+went+on+to+defeat+Cleveland+State+85-50.

Kamaan Richards

Center Daniel Oturu leaps to block an opponent at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The Gophers went on to defeat Cleveland State 85-50.

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team took off running in its first game in the 2020 season. After a long-awaited season, the Gophers scored the first 12 points of the game and 21 of the first 25 points. The second half wasn’t all too friendly for the Gophers, but they hung on and defeated the Green Bay Phoenix 99-69.

Offense

Points were coming everywhere for the Gophers as ten different players found the scoring sheet.

Redshirt junior Marcus Carr, coming off a career season, did not disappoint in his season debut. He picked up right where he left off and carried the Gophers on offense with 35 points along with seven boards and four assists. He tied his career high in points, which was set last season in an upset win over No. 3 Ohio State.

Carr wasn’t even thinking about his box score or that he just tied his career high in points; his mind was on closing the game out.

“They went on their run, and I was just so focused on getting us back to where we needed to be. I kinda wasn’t even thinking about it; it wasn’t on my mind at all. I was just focused on trying to get us back to playing the way we needed to be,” Carr said.

With the void to fill in Daniel Oturu’s absence, Carr was up for the challenge. When the Gophers’ offense went dry, it was Carr who woke them up. He’ll be a big asset to the team, and they’ll look to him the rest of the season to lead the way.

“He went home and clearly got in the best shape of his life. You can see he went back home and didn’t sit on the couch. He got himself in terrific shape; he’s very, very confident,” head coach Richard Pitino said.

The biggest struggle from the Gophers’ offense tonight came in the three point shooting, an area they struggled in last year, shooting just 33.7% from deep. In their first game they combined to shoot just 20.6% on 34 attempts.

Junior Gabe Kalscheur started out his Gopher tenure with an impressive freshman year from beyond the arc. He shot 41% that season but saw that drop to 34.1% last season. He continued his sophomore slump struggles from deep, making just one of eight in his season debut.

Kalscheur was still able to finish second in scoring with 17 after he was able to get scores late to push the game out of reach.

After missing so much time throughout his Gopher career, redshirt senior Eric Curry got the start tonight and scored four points. In a recent media availability, Curry mentioned that he has lost 10 pounds so far and will continue to drop weight in hopes of taking away pressure on his knees and staying healthy.

Defense

The Gophers were playing great team defense, getting eight steals and forcing 15 turnovers in the first half. However, the Phoenix came alive in the second half and gave the Gophers a fight to keep things close.

Green Bay was a little more disciplined with the ball in the second half. After leading by 31 at half, the Phoenix were able to cut it to a 10 point game at one point. The Phoenix finished with just eight turnovers in the second half, which helped them force a comeback.

“They cut the lead down; we were fouling a lot. Honestly on the defensive end, I thought for the most part we were in good position,” Carr said. “I kinda just wanted to regroup the guys, reiterate that we got to get it done on the defensive end.”

Over halfway through the second half, the Gophers looked like their first half team and broke the game back open. The Gophers defense worked off Carr’s electric offense, en route to a 30-point win.

“The other teams got scholarships too. They’re gonna play, they’re gonna fight, they’re well coached,” Pitino said. “You’re not just going to beat teams by 60 points. They threw a punch back at us.”

Newcomers

All the talk about this season has been linked to the three freshmen and three new transfers. Junior Liam Robbins and junior Both Gach both got involved right away, finding themselves in the starting lineup. Redshirt senior Brandon Johnson wasn’t far behind and made his presence felt early with a put-back dunk for his first points of the game.

Freshman David Mutaf was seen in street clothes pregame and was inactive for the season opener. The two other freshmen, Martice Mitchell and Jamal Mashburn Jr., each saw action early in the first half.

Robbins struggled with fouls during the first half, picking up two offensive fouls early and his third later in the half. Robbins finished with 10 points and was one rebound away from a double-double.

Gach struggled offensively at first but, after a well designed out-of-bounds play, got his game rolling. He finished with 14 points going perfect from the charity stripe along with five boards and four assists.

“Being back home, being able to play for the Gophers, playing in front of my home state. It was really exciting for me,” Gach said.

Mashburn finished with five points on 2-of-6 shooting, while Mitchell was held scoreless in his sole shot of the game.

Looking forward

The Gophers will be back in action Saturday evening when they face Loyola Marymount at the Barn.