Jan. 16, 2021: The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the No. 7 ranked Michigan Wolverines (SCORE) in Williams Arena.
The Gophers’ Saturday matchup with the Wolverines was their seventh consecutive game against a ranked opponent, which is the longest streak in D1 college basketball since 2011 (St. John’s), per the U. Richard Pitino’s squad did not back down from the challenge, as Minnesota led 30-23 after one half of basketball. The Gophers played elite defense in the first half led by two of the Big Ten’s best perimeter defenders, Both Gach and Gabe Kalschuer. The pair’s lockdown defense forced Michigan into 2-9 shooting from beyond the arc and they even coughed up 11 turnovers. Oddly enough, Minnesota’s 0-11 three-point shooting was not enough to hold the Gophers’ offense back. Robbins, Carr, and Curry each led the team with six points, resulting in a seven-point lead heading into the locker room.
Liam Robbins got the second half started with a three-point barrage. The former Drake big man seemed to take Michigan’s blowout win on Jan. 6 personally. Robbins’ 16 second-half points brought his game total to 22 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalschuer joined the party with 19 combined points in the second half. Ultimately, the Gophers’ stifling defense proved to be too much for Michigan to handle, forcing to Wolverines to 20 total turnovers. The Gophers won 75-57 moving to 11-4 on the season and 11-0 at the Barn.
What we learned:
The Gophers’ daunted nine-game stretch of matchups with perennial tournament teams, couldn’t have gone much better. You can’t really ask for much better than a 5-4 result. Now that Minnesota has completed its toughest stretch of the season, we are now able to know the team’s true identity.
Marcus Carr is an All-Big Ten player and the Gophers will go as far as Carr takes them. Liam Robbins has developed into one of the best big men in the conference and has proven to be an elite post presence on both ends of the floor. Both Gach and Gabe Kalschuer are elite perimeter defenders that have inconsistent offensive games. With that being said, this team has obviously looked completely different at home compared to on the road, but I think it’s too early to seriously be concerned. It would be tough for any team to go into Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, or Iowa to get a win.
The Big Ten conference season is long and grueling Minnesota will have 12 more games to make a move in the standings (sixth now). I truly believe that this Gophers team will have a shot to make a run at a Big Ten tournament title with Sweet 16 aspirations in the big dance come March.
What is next?:
Minnesota schedule eases up tremendously with no game against a team currently ranked in the top 25 until Feb. 20 when they host Illinois. The next month of basketball will be the Gophers’ only chance to make a run at the Big Ten regular-season crown. I guess they just knocked off the top team, so anything is possible.
Next for Minnesota is a Wed. Jan. 20 contest with the last place Nebraska Cornhuskers.