Balance, 3s give Minnesota 82-57 win over Central Michigan
By Brian Hall
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Starting the second half with possession, Minnesota worked the ball around the offensive zone for nearly 30 seconds before Daniel Oturu found Gabe Kalscheur open in the corner for a 3-pointer.
Kalscheur hit the shot and the Gophers continued to find success from 3 in their return home.
Marcus Carr had 19 points and Minnesota tied the second-best 3-point mark in school history with 14 made 3s in an 82-57 win against Central Michigan on Thursday night.
Payton Willis scored 18 points and Kalscheur added 15 for the Gophers (2-3), who were 14 of 30 from beyond the arc, the third game this season with double-digit made 3s. Kalscheur was 5 of 11 from 3-point territory, while Willis was 4 of 6.
“He’s a great shooter,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said of Kalscheur. “I kept telling him, ‘Catch-and-shoot 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s.’ He’s got a quick release. He kind of surprises you when he catches it and gets it off so quickly. It’s important for him to make 3s for us.”
Oturu added nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for the Gophers.
Kevin McKay led Central Michigan (4-1) with 16 points and eight rebounds. Dallas Morgan added 10 points for the Chippewas, who shot a season-low 33.3 percent (22 of 66).
The increased emphasis on the 3 comes with Carr and Willis in their first season with Minnesota after transferring, respectively, from Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt. The Gophers were among the nation’s least-productive teams from 3 last season and had just four games with double-digit made 3s.
“We’ve been talking about it since summer time, since we kind of came together, we’re all very aware of our ability to shoot the ball,” Carr said. “Due to the way they played defense, and their press and the way we were attacking it, we were just able to get a lot of open shots.”
The last time Minnesota had as many as 14 made 3s in a game was in 2002. The school record is 16, set against Michigan State in 2001.
Central Michigan kept the game close early by going inside and rebounding. David DiLeo converted a field goal in the paint to draw the Chippewas within 23-20. From there, the Gophers went on a 15-0 run to put the game out of reach. Willis hit a pair of 3s during the stretch.
Central Michigan went without a field goal in the final 2:35 of the first half as Minnesota built a 19-point advantage at halftime. The Gophers led by as many as 29 in the second half.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Minnesota had 23 assists on 32 made field goals.
“We shared the basketball,” Pitino said. “We took good shots. We were really good defensively versus a team that was averaging over 100 points. I thought it was a great step in the right direction.”
Central Michigan: The first big test led to the first time struggling offensively for the Chippewas. Central Michigan entered the game second in the country in points per game (108.8) and scoring margin (plus-40). The Chippewas will see better defenses down the road and will need to shoot better.
Minnesota: With the 3s falling, the Gophers can be dangerous when considering Oturu’s ability inside. Returning home should help the feeling too, after three road losses to Power 5 teams. Minnesota can get comfortable and gain some confidence with a five-game homestand that started Thursday. More winnable games appear on the horizon before the homestand concludes against Clemson as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Central Michigan returns home on Saturday to face Trinity Christian for the first time, though the Chippewas are 17-0 against non-Division I teams under coach Keno Davis.
Minnesota’s season-long homestand continues Sunday evening against North Dakota, the first meeting between the two schools since Dec. 8, 2014.