Gophers men’s basketball survives against Northwestern

A sloppy game from both ends, and a late surge from Marcus Carr, pushed Minnesota past Northwestern.

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Nur B. Adam

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

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

The Gophers’ men’s basketball team fought late and was able to put together enough to top Northwestern 51-46 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Redshirt junior guard Marcus Carr struggled for 38 minutes of the night, but his late surge was enough for the Gophers to survive one more day.

After scoring just three points in the first 37 minutes of the game, Carr hit back-to-back jumpers during an 11-0 run to give the Gophers the lead once again. Carr finished the night with 10 points, seven of them coming at the perfect time.

“He’s terrific, he’s always ready. We know he’s gonna knock them down, we know he’s gonna get us one when we need him. He’s a big time player… he’s always showed up in clutch moments every time he’s stepped on the floor,” freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr. said.

Sophomore Tre’ Williams had another impressive night and led the team in scoring with a game-high 14 points. Minnesota hit on just five threes all night, but Williams was responsible for four of those.

The Gophers struggled from deep once again, shooting just 25% on the night, but this time around, it didn’t come back to bite them… too much. It wasn’t just the deep balls that weren’t falling for Minnesota. The Gophers left a lot of points at the free throw line as they made just 10 of their 24 attempts.

“We talked about and put a huge emphasis on keeping them off the line and us getting to the line. With Liam [Robbins] out, we’re obviously not getting a lot at the basket from a post presence standpoint,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re obviously not a great three point shooting team so let’s drive the basketball, attack, put them in foul trouble.”

The shooting wasn’t the only issue Wednesday night for both teams, but it was a big part of the game.

The Gophers got the action going for the Big Ten tournament and neither team seemed ready for the game. Northwestern and Minnesota started a combined 0-of-7 from the field, but the Gophers came out energetic and were diving across the floor for loose balls.

Minnesota was able to find its stroke, while the Wildcats needed almost seven minutes, and nine shots, to make their first basket.

On top of Minnesota getting dirty on the floor, they were also doing a much better job rebounding the ball. Since juniors Liam Robbins and Gabe Kalscheur have been out, the Gophers had been struggling to rebound. Going into the break, they had a 22-17 edge on the glass.

The Gophers saw their lead grow to 14 as they took an early 16-2 lead. No lead is safe for the Gophers and an early lead like that is all too familiar for Minnesota when facing Northwestern. The last matchup featured a 17-3 lead, which turned into a double digit loss for Minnesota.

Williams and Mashburn were doing their best to keep Minnesota in front in the first half. Williams connected on two deep balls for six points, while Mashburn led the team with eight points going into the break.

Minnesota slowly allowed Northwestern back into the game when it ran into some trouble on the offensive end. Sloppy play, combined with Northwestern finally getting shots to drop, gave the Wildcats the opportunity to get back into the game. By halftime, the once 14 point lead was cut in half.

Carr played a part in that sloppy play, accounting for three turnovers, but also contributed four assists in the first half. Besides his assists, Carr wasn’t finding much luck on the offensive end going just 1-of-5 for two points.

Minnesota wasn’t alone in the sloppy play, as the two teams combined for 16 turnovers in the first half. The Gophers accounted for nine of them, but were fortunate enough that the Wildcats only turned that into six points. Minnesota has usually thrived in the points off turnovers, but it turned the seven turnovers into just two points.

The second half wasn’t too friendly for Minnesota as the sloppy play continued and the shooting got worse. The seven point lead that Minnesota came out of half with was erased and turned around.

“We had a stretch there in the second half where we kind of lost our heads a little and got a little turnover happy and just weren’t guarding. That’s really all we talked about was not giving them easy baskets and guarding them and we’re gonna win the game. It was just about sticking together, buckling down and making sure we got those things done,” Carr said.

After a tough first half, Carr continued to struggle to get going after being constantly peppered and double teamed. Outside of Williams, who hit on two more threes, Minnesota wasn’t getting much production on the offensive side.

That was up until Carr decided today wasn’t the day for Minnesota’s season to end. After trailing 46-39, the Gophers went on an 11-0 run that included seven points from Carr to retake the lead. If there was anyone on this Minnesota team to struggle for 38 minutes, but come alive late, Carr is the one to do it.

“We’ve been in that position before, many of times. Sometimes we’ve folded and we laid over, but this time we said, ‘Keep fighting, keep staying positive to each other,’ through the ups and the downs,” Mashburn said. “Overall, the positivity was there throughout the whole game.”

Minnesota was able to survive another day and will face up against Ohio State Thursday in the second round. The Gophers only faced the Buckeyes once this season, but were able to come out victorious Jan. 3.

“We had a great game against them earlier, but this is a new season right now. It’s March and we’re obviously two different teams, but we’re gonna go out and look to execute and do the same thing,” Carr said.