Gophers improve to 6-0 upon defeating Kansas City

Transfers Both Gach and Liam Robbins led the way in the 90-61 win.

Gophers+Center+Liam+Robbins+leaps+for+the+ball+at+Williams+Arena+on+Friday%2C+Dec.+4.+The+Gophers+went+on+to+a+76-67+victory+over+the+North+Dakota+Fighting+Hawks.

Parker Johnson

Gophers Center Liam Robbins leaps for the ball at Williams Arena on Friday, Dec. 4. The Gophers went on to a 76-67 victory over the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

Matthew Kennedy, Sports Reporter

The Gophers men’s basketball team had an abundance of opportunities at the free throw line on Thursday, as they knocked down 34-of-44 from the stripe en route to a 90-61 win over Kansas City.

In the first half, center Liam Robbins converted on 9-of-11 tries at the stripe. It appeared as though the Gophers were going to pull away from their Summit League foes early as they went up 18-4.

Robbins’ steady performance from the line was an improvement from his last game against Boston College, where he shot 4-of-8 from the charity stripe.

“Free throws are a big deal and I hurt us down the stretch missing key points,” Robbins said. “Pitino has us shoot 100 free throws everyday and always emphasizes to draw fouls, so it takes some of the good players on opposing teams out of the game to get more mismatches and advantages.”

But, the Roos fought back with a nicely shared dosage of points from Brandon McKissic, Demarius Pitts, and Franck Kamgain. They managed to keep up with the Gophers but after falling behind, never got closer than six points for the remainder of the contest.

Marcus Carr, the high-octane point guard, who averages 25.6 points per game was uncharacteristically quiet for most of the half, making his first field goal attempt with 3:47 left in the half. He went into the break with eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc, including a very stylistic finale to the half knocking down a buzzer beater three-point shot before heading to the locker room.

Carr finished the night with 15 points and seven assists, still productive overall, yet less productive than his last few contests.

The top performers in the first half were Robbins for Minnesota, who had 14 points, four rebounds and McKissic for Kansas City, who had 10 points, three assists and three rebounds. Minnesota led 43-31 at the break.

In the back half of this non-conference matchup at the Barn, the Roos could not find the bottom of the basket for a good three and a half minutes. Meanwhile, Robbins continued his onslaught of scoring, putting up six points right away for Minnesota in the second half.

After a Both Gach three point snipe that put the Gophers up 52-31, Kansas City head coach Billy Donlon took a timeout.

The Roos finally started to nail some buckets, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Gophers from building on their lead. Robbins scored 27 points and was prolific inside the paint finishing 7-of-11 from the field and knocking down one three in the process.

Most of Robbins’ success can be attributed to the Roos starting four guards the game and his considerable height advantage over Kansas City’s most talented hoopers on the hardwood.

Aside from Gach having an impressive shooting percentage with a clip of 80%, the rest of the Gophers could not find consistency in putting the ball through the net with Carr, guard Gabe Kalschuer, and forward Isaiah Ihnen shooting a combined 7-for-21. Gach finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The Gophers kept extending their lead and pulled Robbins to end his night with 27 points, as Gophers’ head coach Richard Pitino swapped in some players from the bench.

“It’s always nice to put up a good statline but I never in my whole career have been a ‘stat guy’. For me, the first focus is always winning,” Robbins said. “I don’t care how I play as long as the team wins.”

One player profiting from extra time was freshman David Mutaf, native of Istanbul, Turkey. Mutaf finished with five points in his first ever game-time as a Gopher, notably nailing a corner-three for the very first points of his collegiate career.

Pitino shared his thoughts on the young guards performance and his adjustment coming from Eastern Europe.

“It was good to see because when we paused and took some time off, it was hard for him to get in shape for the season since he got here late. But, you see the size and the nice stroke from him making him very skilled at the game,” Pitino said.

“I just talk to him and keep repeating, ‘stay the course’ because he has so many things thrown at him from learning the English language, fitting in socially in America and on the court, so I was happy to see him get his first basket tonight and I can’t wait to see his growth the rest of the season and his career as a Gopher.”

Ihnen also had his first start of the season tonight in place of injured forward Brandon Johnson. The German native scored four points and was 2-of-7 from the field and 0-of-4 behind the arc. Yet, he did have nine rebounds in the first half and finished with 11 on the game which is something to smile about for the 6-foot-9 sophomore forward.

Pitino spoke highly of Ihnen’s work ethic.

“Isaiah took advantage of the opportunity and hopefully Brandon is back sooner or later. Nine rebounds in the first half was terrific. I just loved his mentality today,” Pitino said. “He was all about what we talk about ‘the 95%’ which is what you do when the ball is not in your hands. Isaiah exemplified that today and helped us in a big way and took advantage of his bigger role.”

The Gophers (6-0) will stay undefeated on the season. They travel to Champaign, Illinois, to face off with No. 6 Illinois next Tuesday to open Big Ten play.