Gophers' balanced attack key in 78-69 win over Utah
MINNEAPOLIS — From key players healed after injuries to multi-talented newcomers filling out the rotation, Minnesota has a much deeper team than last season.
Gabe Kalscheur is part of that fresh start, set up to help the Gophers fix a long-running weakness in outside shooting.
Kalscheur went 5-for-6 from 3-point range and had 19 points in his second college game as all five Minnesota starters scored in double digits, guiding the Gophers past Utah 78-69 on Monday night.
"We're really confident in his ability to shoot when teams are trying to zone us, and that's something that we were really missing for a very long time since I've been here," said senior power forward Jordan Murphy, who had 11 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.
The Gophers finished 10th, 11th and 14th in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting the last three seasons. Kalscheur is 7 for 9 so far. One of three freshmen from the Twin Cities area and less-heralded than four-star recruit Daniel Oturu, the 6-foot-4 Kalscheur even surprised coach Richard Pitino by forcing his way into the starting lineup at shooting guard with his maturity and hustle during preseason practices.
"I needed to have a guy who was smart out there and was going to be solid," Pitino said.
Amir Coffey had 14 points and six assists, Oturu pitched in 13 points and Dupree McBrayer added 11 points and six assists for the Gophers (2-0), who registered 20 assists to just 11 turnovers.
Sedrick Barefield and Vante Hendrix each scored 14 points for the Utes (1-1), who trailed for the final 25 minutes of the game. Novak Topalovic, the 7-foot graduate transfer, had 13 points and three rebounds. Donnie Tillman added nine points and nine rebounds.
"I don't think we were awestruck by any kind of environment. I thought some of our young kids actually stepped up and had pretty good road games," coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "It's just consistency."
Coffey's 3-pointer with 5:53 left in the first half gave the Gophers the lead for good at 20-18, and he followed with a steal of Timmy Allen for a fast break and a dunk. Kalscheur sank his fourth 3-pointer of the half for a 33-26 advantage at the intermission.
"He's kind of an unknown commodity," Krystkowiak said. "He got hot, and we didn't do a good job of having a hand up, and that's the difference."
The Utes led the Pac-12 in defense last season, allowing an average of 68.5 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the floor. The Gophers made 17 of 28 field goals (60.7 percent) in the second half, a tone set early by Kalscheur.
"He's just got a pro mentality, so every time he shoots nobody's surprised when it goes in," Pitino said.
DOWN THE STRETCH
With a jumper from the wing by Michael Hurt off a fast break, the Gophers took their biggest lead of the game at 57-42.
The Utes used some full-court press and a surge by Barefield, their only returning starter, to cut the deficit to 62-57 on a step-back jumper with 6:13 remaining. But the Gophers responded with a dunk by Oturu off a lob pass from McBrayer, and a jump shot by McBrayer in the final minute brought the lead back to 13 points.
"With some of the freshmen, they were a little down at times. Even myself, and I'm a sophomore now," Tillman said. "But that's basketball for you. You've got to adjust right away."
This was only the fourth meeting between the programs and the first in Minnesota. They last played in Utah on Nov. 19, 2003.
Utah: With nine new players on the roster, including six freshmen, the nonconference portion of the season could bring some growing pains for a squad that lost three of the top four scorers from the 2017-18 team that reached the NIT championship game. One of the freshmen, Both Gach, once played in the Minnesota state tournament with Austin High School. He sank both of his 3-point attempts.
Minnesota: This was the only game at Williams Arena for the Gophers in a 28-day stretch, a strange schedule that includes a local game against Oklahoma State on Nov. 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the NFL's Vikings and the site of this season's NCAA Final Four. With five power-conference opponents on the slate prior to Big Ten play, Pitino's goal was to not only give the Gophers more early challenges but give the NCAA Tournament selection committee more to consider.
Utah: Hosts Mississippi Valley State on Thursday.
Minnesota: Plays Texas A&M on Sunday in the first of three games in the Vancouver Showcase, followed by matchups with Santa Clara and Washington.