Carr dominates early for Gophers

Marcus Carr picked up right where he left off last season and has been leading the Gophers to an early 3-0 start.

Guard+Marcus+Carr+shoots+through+the+opponents+at+Williams+Arena+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+28.

Nur B. Adam

Guard Marcus Carr shoots through the opponents at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

AJ Condon

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team has started out 3-0 this season in large part due to redshirt junior Marcus Carr. After setting a school record for 207 assists last season, and being the second leading scorer with 15.4 points per game, the stage was set for his third year.

This time around, he didn’t have Daniel Oturu manning the front court. Head coach Richard Pitino praised the work Carr put in over the offseason, and it has shown early.

“He went home and clearly got in the best shape of his life,” Pitino said. “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.”

In their first three non-conference matchups, the Gophers have relied heavily on the third-year guard. In his first contest of the season, Carr led the Gophers to a 30-point win behind a 35-point performance, tying his career high.

Carr used that momentum in the Gophers’ second game of the season to jump out on Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in the first half, scoring 22 of the Gophers’ 41 first half points. LMU adjusted and held Carr to just six points in the second half, as he ended with 28 in a 88-73 win.

After those two performances, Carr would probably have been deserving of being the Big Ten player of the week if it wasn’t for Iowa’s Luka Garza. The Iowa senior scored 67 points on 28-of-33 shooting with six blocks in two games.

Carr got right back to work against LMU in Minnesota’s second game of the back-to-back. The Lions continued to figure out Carr in the first half, holding him to just five points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Carr went into halftime and made adjustments for the second half. He put up 21 points, shooting 8-of-9 in the second half, including a game-winning three pointer to put the Gophers on top.

Carr started taking the ball coast to coast for easy layups in transition, creating space for his two threes. In the second half, Pitino drew up an out-of-bounds play that helped get Carr open on the wing for an easy two. He took advantage of the way LMU decided to guard against Carr.

“I think these last two games, just the way that they were guarding, the advantage was for the guards, for us, to just [attack] downhill. They had some bigger, slower guys, and they were trying to switch some times,” Carr said.

The second-year captain isn’t just putting up big numbers on the stats sheet. He has been a great leader to his team and helped bring them out of midgame slumps. In the 30-point win over Green Bay, the Gophers saw their lead drop to 10 before Carr opened things up.

“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 [the box score]; it wasn’t on my mind at all,” Carr said. “I was just focused on trying to get us back to playing the way we needed to be.”

In both games against LMU, Carr was able to help the Gophers’ offense when it needed it most. In the first game he contributed 22 first half points, and in the second game he scored 21 second half points.

“He’s been playing great these two games, and he’s just so consistent. We all see the work that he’s put in, how skilled he is. The confidence we have in him is because of the work he puts in,” junior Liam Robbins said. “I think people will be shocked at how dominant he is this year, but we are not going to be surprised because we see it every day.”

Over three games, he’s averaging 29.7 points, five assists and over five rebounds per game. He’s also shooting a lot more efficiently than he has in his career, hitting 54.4% from the field and 45% from behind the arc.

Carr came into this season already noticed by his play last season. Coming into the year, Carr earned himself three preseason awards.

His first preseason award was earning a spot on the Preseason All-Big Ten Team. After making the All-Big Ten Third Team following last season, Carr found himself on a list that included Iowa’s Garza, Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn as well as other Big Ten standouts.

Carr also earned the privilege of being named to both the Naismith Trophy Watch List and, most recently, the John R. Wooden Award watch list. Carr is demonstrating early that he’s deserving of all three of these prestigious preseason awards.