International trips are always great opportunities to allow the team to come together, simulate game situations, and allow transfers and underclassmen shine. Minnesota experienced all three of those things on their trip. Here are some takeaways from their travels in Italy.
Three-Point Shooting Attempt Explosion
The Golden Gophers aren’t known as a three-point shooting team for most of this decade. They’ve only been in the top 100 nationally in three-point shooting percentage twice this decade (2010 and 2015). However, Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino thinks it could be a strength of this year’s team.
Minnesota’s Richard Pitino on team’s trip to Italy:— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) August 15, 2019
Standout: Vandy transfer Peyton Willis. “He was solid all the way around. He shot it well, and we played him at 3 different positions.”
Surprise: “Being able to shoot it much better. Last year we were more of a driving team."
The Golden Gophers made an average of 11 three-pointers per game on an average of almost 34 attempts per game. Last year, the Golden Gophers shot 31.7 percent from three all season. 33 percent from distance isn’t much better, but it seems clear that the Golden Gophers are going to let it fly more this year, and with the game’s three-point oriented play, that seems to make sense.
Peyton Willis A Bright Spot
The Vanderbilt transfer excelled in the overseas trip averaging 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 guard shined in the first game of the trip kickstarting and leading a 16-point comeback against the Stella Azzurra Academy. Willis scored seven points in the fourth quarter including two key three-pointers when Minnesota was trailing. Willis also scored 15 points in the third game of the trip and dished out seven assists.
With Amir Coffey off to the NBA, the deck’s cleared for players like Willis to step in and lead the Minnesota backcourt attack.
Daniel Oturu Showing New Skills
One of the best freshman bigs in the Big Ten last season will look to expand his game this upcoming season. We saw a sneak peek at some of the expanded skills from Oturu in Italy.
The biggest thing that jumped out was the three-point shooting. The 6-foot-10 Oturu took only two three-point attempts all of last season. In the three games in Italy, the big man shot 3-5 from distance. That’s a potential Jon Teske-like jump in three-point attempts this season (23-77 last season).
Oturu averaged 11 points per game in just 14 minutes of play. The little minutes were a symptom of something Oturu needs to clean up from last season - foul trouble. Last season he had 11 games in which he earned between 4 and 5 fouls. He battled foul trouble throughout the trip, and Minnesota is going to desperately need him on the floor this season.
It seemed like a positive trip for the Golden Gophers. They won all their games, tested in the final minutes and delivered, and learned that there are some positives from a team replacing a majority of its starting lineup.
Hard to gauge what a team is going to be like off three games overseas, but Minnesota looks to be a team this season that will shoot plenty more three-pointers. That should be an interesting wrinkle that’s not been present in Minneapolis in a while.