MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gophers men’s basketball team started slow but pulled away for a 73-48 exhibition win over Southwest Minnesota State on Monday, Oct. 28, at Williams Arena.
Minnesota allowed Southwest — a Division II program picked to finish 12th in the 16-team NSIC — to out-rebound the Gophers 26-16 and shoot more than 45 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range in the first half. The Gophers only led 11-10 after nine minutes, but with Southwest’s 15 turnovers, the U led 37-26 at the half.
The Gophers lead grew to 59-33 in the second half as Southwest Minnesota State made one of 16 shots in a stretch, and the U cruised from there.
Daniel Oturu led with a double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds, a good sign with the team’s need to make up for the loss of record-setting rebounder senior Jordan Murphy and the season-ending injury to Eric Curry.
Pitino believes Oturu will need a double-double every night for the Gophers to be successful this season, which opens against Cleveland State at The Barn at 7 p.m. Nov. 5.
“He’s gonna have to play a lot of minutes, and he can’t — I pulled him once or twice for being tired,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said. “That can’t happen. He’s going to have to be in unbelievable physical shape.”
The Gophers started Marcus Carr and Payton Willis alongside returning starter Gabe Kalscheur in the back court. Willis led the team with 14 points, Carr had 12. Each had assists. Kalscheur contributed 11 points.
Oturu and Drexel graduate transfer Alihan Demir started in the front court.
Minnesota’s highest-rated true freshman, forward Isaiah Ihnen, sat out out Monday’s exhibitiion with a wrist injury.
“He’s getting better,” Pitino said. “Hopeful for the first game. Other than that, I don’t really know. I don’t think it’s anything extremely serious. But yeah when you are a man down with Eric, Isaiah has played a little (power forward) and you’re a man down with him. (Michael Hurt) was a little hobbled with an ankle injury, so just got to get healthy.”
Ihnen, a four-star recruit from Boeblingen, Germany, played 11 minutes in Minnesota’s closed scrimmage against Iowa State on Oct. 19.
Gophers players voted Carr and Hurt the team captains for the 2019-20 season.
“I think Marcus has really good leadership qualities,” Pitino said. “I think Mike looks like a senior out there. He understands exactly what we want to do.”