Gophers destroy Nebraska 107-75 in regular-season finale
MINNEAPOLIS — Gabe Kalscheur and his teammates had a record-setting day as the Minnesota Gophers wrapped up their regular season with a big win.
Kalscheur scored 26 points and tied a school record with eight 3-pointers on Sunday as Minnesota set a season-high in scoring with a 107-75 victory over Nebraska.
Minnesota made a school-record 18 3-pointers, thanks in large part to Kalscheur, who went 7 for 8 from beyond the arc in the second half.
“My confidence was high and my teammates found me,” said Kalscheur, who was expected to be one of Minnesota’s top scorers this season but entered Sunday shooting 26.2% from 3-point range in conference games. “The connection with the rim –- it felt like every shot was going in there in the second half.”
Marcus Carr had 18 points and 11 assists, Alihan Demir added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Daniel Oturu had 10 points and six rebounds for the Gophers (14-16, 8-12 Big Ten), who were eighth in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting before lighting up the Huskers.
“I’ve said all along, I thought we were a great shooting team,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “They waited to the last game, apparently, to prove me right.”
Haanif Cheatham led Nebraska (7-24, 2-18) with 17 points. Jervay Green added 16, Thorir Thorbjarnarson had 14, and Kevin Cross scored 10 for the Huskers, who have lost 16 straight games and will be the bottom seed in this week’s Big Ten Tournament.
“The beauty of this postseason right now is whatever happened during the regular season, it’s over,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We’re all zero and zero. It’s a fun time of year to get to this point and hopefully go out and play well.”
The Gophers have to win at least three games at the Big Ten Tournament to ensure a .500 record required for NIT eligibility.
That means the game was likely the final one at home for Oturu. The 6-foot-10 sophomore and Twin Cities native is expected to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft, where some services have him ranked as a top-10 pick. He’s averaging 20.3 points and leads the Big Ten with 11.6 rebounds per game.
Oturu put his skills on display during a 14-2 run late in the first half that helped Minnesota build a 52-37 lead at the break. After hitting a pair of free throws, he threw down a dunk on a breakaway and then hit a long jump shot for six straight points.
The Gophers hit 10 of their last 14 shots of the first half as they pulled away from Nebraska. Demir hit three straight buckets from inside to start the second half.
Oturu’s Big Ten rebounding title makes it three straight years that a Minnesota player has been the conference’s top rebounder. Former Gophers forward Jordan Murphy led the Big Ten in each of the previous two seasons.
Nebraska turned the ball over 42 times in their previous two games, but the Huskers took much better care of the ball on Sunday. They had just three turnovers in the first half and 11 total.
EMPTY THE BENCH
All 13 players who dressed for Minnesota played and scored on Senior Day. The Gophers went over 100 points on a dunk by freshman big man Sam Freeman, just his second basket of the season. And senior guard Brady Rudrud nailed a 3-pointer, his first since his freshman year.
Pitino put Kalscheur back into the game with 7:38 to play when an assistant pointed out that the sophomore guard was one 3-pointer shy of tying the single-game school record. Kalscheur hit his next shot from beyond the arc and promptly returned to the bench with the game in hand.
When asked if he considered letting Kalscheur try to break the mark, Pitino cited sportsmanship and injury concerns for keeping him on the bench.
“He tied the record. That’s pretty good, right?,” Pitino said with a grin. “I mean, let’s not get greedy.”
Nebraska: The Huskers played without guards Cam Mack and Dachon Burke, who coach Fred Hoiberg suspended indefinitely on Saturday for violating team rules. The two guards combined for 24.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this year, while Mack led the team with 6.4 assists per game.
Minnesota: The Gophers had lost three straight home games, giving away big leads down the stretch in each of them. They made sure that didn’t happen again, thanks in large part to their long-distance shooting. Minnesota topped 100 points for the first time since Nov. 6, 2018.
Nebraska: The 14th-seeded Cornhuskers will face No. 11 Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday night in Indianapolis. Nebraska lost both games to Indiana this season, including a six-point overtime defeat on the road on Dec. 13. “It seems like 20 years ago, but it was our first game of the conference season back in December and we played great,” Hoiberg said. “We had a chance to win that game. We took them to overtime, but they have great length and it’s a team that’s athletic. We have to do a good job on the glass.”
Minnesota: Seeded 12th in the Big Ten tourney, the Gophers will take on 13th-seeded Northwestern in the first game on Wednesday evening. Minnesota swept a pair of games against the Wildcats this season, winning by an average of 17.5 points.