Minnesota got things started this evening with a dominating second half and 74-57 victory over Northwestern. The Golden Gophers outscored the Wildcats 45-26 in the second half to counter Northwestern’s two-point halftime lead.
The Golden Gophers were paced by sophomore Daniel Oturu who had 24 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Northwestern was led by sophomore Pete Nance with 15 points.
Let’s take a look at what we learned from Minnesota’s victory.
Minnesota Showed The Blueprint
If Minnesota is planning on making a run in the Big Ten Tournament they showed the blueprint on how they can get it done.
First is something they’ve had all season, which is great play from Oturu. The 6-foot-10 big man was excellent once again this evening and even showed free throw improvement by knocking down 10-12 from the line. Any run for Minnesota is going to have him heavily involved.
Next is three-point shooting. The Golden Gophers struggled in the first half, going 3-10 from three-point range. The second half was an explosion with Minnesota hitting 9-14 from three-point range. That’s now two games in a row that Minnesota has shot 50 percent or better from three-point range. It’s hard to expect Minnesota to maintain that the entire way through, but solid three-point shooting to complement the play of Oturu is a combo no top-seed wants to see in this tournament.
The final piece of this blueprint is Minnesota’s active and athletic defensive play. The Golden Gophers were excellent this evening on the defensive end only allowing Northwestern to shoot 27 percent from three. Minnesota also dominated the boards and gave up only five offensive rebounds to the out-matched Wildcats.
Northwestern Has A Summer To Figure It Out
While the Wildcats weren’t supposed to do much this year, but the final 8-23 overall result is probably a little worse than expected.
The Wildcats now have a summer to allow its seven underclassmen who played 10 or more minutes tonight to grow, get stronger, and better in time for the 2020-’21 season.
The question is, how talented is this young group?
There are some signs that Northwestern could improve considerably next season. The Wildcats lost seven games by six points or less this season. A year of experience could get these players on the winning side of many of those games.
Still, though, that’s not a guarantee. It’ll be a very important summer for Chris Collins and his program.
Minnesota Can Easily Hang With Iowa
The Golden Gophers next face-off against Iowa tomorrow afternoon and Minnesota has a decent shot in this one.
KenPom currently has this one as nearly a toss-up. Iowa has a 52 percent chance of winning tomorrow and is predicted to come out on top, 75-74.
The premier matchup is Luka Garza and Daniel Oturu. The previous matchup in Minneapolis had both players combining for one-third of the game’s points.
The blueprint for Minnesota works here against Iowa as well. The Golden Gophers dropped the only game against Iowa this year by three and shot only 7-25 from three-point range. If they can turn around that number, even just slightly, the Gophers can advance on to a weekend game. The Hawkeyes are not a good defensive team so Minnesota should get some decent looks.
I would probably still be inclined to go with the favorite in the Hawkeyes, but expect this one to be a very competitive and intriguing matchup.