Dec. 8: The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Boston College Eagles at Williams Arena 85-80 in a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Head coach Richard Pitino and his Gophers team faced their first “high-major” opponent of the young 2020 season. Boston College entered with a 1-3 record on the season, but have played one of the toughest schedules in the country. This game started out as an absolute slugfest with only 27 total points in the first 11 minutes and 30 seconds of the contest. After Marcus Carr‘s slow first half Friday against North Dakota, it was the same story, as the redshirt-sophomore only recorded two first-half points. On the other hand, Liam Robbins played his best half of Gophers’ basketball with six points in six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Overall, the Gophers 2 of 13 three-point shooting saw them trailing 30-31 heading into the break.
The second half could not have started much worse for Minnesota. BC jumped out to a 12-3 run making four of their first eight shots. Unfortunately, it got worse before it got better as BC’s backcourt of Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath‘s six combined made threes only six minutes into the half extended the Gophers’ deficit to 15. Marcus Carr, fortunately, decided to flip his switch and the Gophers went on a quick 9-0 run. After a SIXTEEN-ZERO run, the Gophers took the lead, 53-52, and we’re right back in the game with 9 minutes remaining. After some back and forth play down the stretch, BC evened the game at 70 with a late layup, and Marcus Carr missed a last-second heave… OVERTIME.
Marcus Carr did what Marcus Carr does and scored nine of the Gophers’ 15 points in OT leading them to an 85-80 victory.
What we learned:
This was by far Minnesota’s toughest test of the young season, and they certainly answered a lot of questions. It may have not been pretty, but a win is a win. Anytime you can take down a solid “high-major” team it means a lot for your end of season resume to get in the tournament. This Boston College team is far better than their now 1-4 record with a win over a very good Rhode Island team and close losses to Villanova, Saint John’s, and Florida. This was a big win.
- The good:
Liam Robbins had his best performance as a Gopher against BC. He finished with 14 points and eight boards and looked very aggressive all night. It might not be this year, but Robbins will be a force in the Big Ten at some point in his Minnesota career.
Freshman, guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. also had his best game as a Gopher finishing with 10 points. This year he may only be an above-average backup, guard. But he has shown that he could quickly become a serious starting PG in the Big Ten going forward.
Gach and Carr also continue to be a terrific backcourt and they will certainly be the strength of this team as the season grows progresses.
- The bad:
Boston College’s backcourt of Wynston Tabbs and Jay Heath absolutely torched the Gophers for 40 combined of BC’s 80 total points. This has to be indicative of Minnesota’s defense from its guards. Even though Pitino has said Kalschuer has done a great job defensively so far this year this game certainly did not show it.
What is next:
Overall I would say this was a HUGE win for the Gophers. On paper, it might not look like it, but the fact that they were able to squeak out a win making six fewer threes than BC, coming back from a 15-point second-half deficit, and only a two-point first half from Carr has to be exponential for the team’s confidence.
The Gophers are about to go on an all-time stretch of opponents. They will face UMKC on Thursday a game they should win pretty handily, but then it begins. Illinois, Saint Louis, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa again, and then Michigan again all in a row. After facing four teams that will likely not make the tournament the Gophers will be seven consecutive sure-fire tournament teams. Buckle up Gophers fans.