MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers men’s basketball team believes it is a much better 3-point-shooting team than it was last season, but coach Richard Pitino said his players for too many long-range shots in a 71-62 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 9.
As the U fell to 1-1 this season, Minnesota made just 8 of 32 shots from deep (25 percent) against the Sooners in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Gophers gave up an eight-point second-half lead, falling victim to a key 9-0 run that put the game out of reach with 90 seconds left.
“We had a segment there, settling for some threes, we missed a couple of front ends of one-and-ones (on the free-throw line) that really hurt us,” Pitino said Monday on a conference call.
The Gophers’ goal is to make more free throws than the other team attempts, but the opposite happened against the Sooners. Minnesota went 4 for 12, while Oklahoma was 17 for 22 from the stripe.
“When you leave eight points (off) the board, it just changes the game and it zaps your energy,” Pitino said.
The Gopher will look to bounce back against Butler (2-0) in the Gavitt Tipoff Games at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Pitino wants to see his team attack the basket more, which he believes will create better looks at the rim and from deep, where they made 13 three-pointers in the season-opening blowout of Cleveland State last week. He was looking for that again, primarily from guards Gabe Kalscheur and Payton Willis; they were a combined 6 for 20 from 3-point range against Oklahoma.
“We’ve got to shoot ’em when we’re open (from deep) and they’ve got to be in rhythm and they’ve got to be good shots, but if not, you have to attack,” Pitino said.
Minnesota is approaching the middle a tough stretch against three high-major teams; the first time that has happened during their first four games in a season since 1969.
The Gophers considered traveling straight from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City for Friday’s game against Utah, but decided to come back to Minneapolis in between.
Freshman forward Isaiah Ihnen could make his debut Tuesday after injuring his right shooting wrist in preseason.