Dec. 4 The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated North Dakota Fighting Hawks 76-67 to begin their 2020 campaign 4-0.
Following the Gophers’ unique two-game series against Loyola Marymount, they were slated to take on the University of North Dakota of the Summit League. The Fighting Hawks came into their matchup with the Gophs’ following a 74-73 loss to a Dixie State team that is competing at the Division One level for the first time this season. Therefore, Minnesota opened as a massive 21.5 point favorite.
Unfortunately, it is becoming a theme for this Gophers team to begin their games sluggish. This one was no different, as Minnesota let UND jump out to a 22-11 lead. Both Gach was able to carry his teammates back into the game with 16 first-half points. Richard Pitino’s squad headed into the locker room with a one-point lead at 36-35.
The second half was not a much better story. Minnesota still struggled to put together consistent stretches on defense. UND stuck around all night. With about five minutes remaining in the ball game, the Gophers began to pull away. Marcus Carr began to heat up after a relatively “quiet” night (for his standards) and finished with 17 points on the night. North Dakota’s Filip Rebraca gave the Gophers fits all night with 22 points, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough as Minnesota won 76-67.
What we learned:
Both Gach is better than advertised. The Austin, Minnesota native has been a delightful surprise through four games. The 6-foot-6 guard’s versatility on both ends of the floor is incredibly valuable in raising this Gophers team’s ceiling. Thus far he has shown he can be a legitimate number two option on a competitive Big Ten team. It is fair to hope that his 21 point, nine-rebound performance tonight could be the start of a great Gophers career.
Brandon Johnson will likely remain in the starting lineup. The Western Michigan transfer’s performance tonight was terrific on both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-8 big man was very active on defense, likely the Gophers top post defender tonight. His 15 points on offense also showed he can be a serious scoring threat on any given night. Although Curry has certainly not played poorly, I don’t see Johnson giving up his starting spot anytime soon.
Unfortunately, there was also some bad. This was certainly not Liam Robbins worst game, as it was quite promising to see him only commit two fouls. So far this season, it would be hard to say Robbins has looked like an elite Big Ten big man. He has shown flashes, but inconsistency around the rim and in the paint on defense will be a problem against Big Ten centers like Kofi Cockburn or Luka Garza. Fortunately, the Drake transfer still has some time to get ready, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Overall tonight was a game the Gophers had to have. Its college basketball, not every game is going to be perfect. It is very promising to see a win be possible without an all-world performance from Marcus Carr. The role players all played well, and it is good momentum heading into next Tuesday’s Dec. 7 Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Boston College.