Transfers Carr, Willis lead Minnesota past CSU
Published 11:05 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2019
MINNEAPOLIS — Marcus Carr had 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and Payton Willis added 17 points and eight assists in their debuts for Minnesota, and the Gophers breezed by Cleveland State for an 85-50 victory in the season opener on Tuesday night.
Daniel Oturu pitched in 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds despite six turnovers for the Gophers, who faced the Vikings for the first time in their histories. Carr went 3 for 9 from 3-point range and Willis was 5 for 8, giving the Gophers a persistent perimeter shooting threat for at least one game that was sorely lacking in 2018-19. Minnesota went 13 for 29 from behind the arc.
Hugo Ferreira, a freshman from Portugal, had 13 points for the Vikings, who faced a Big Ten foe for the 40th time in program history. They’re 6-34 against teams from the dominant conference in the region, with the most famous win in the 1986 NCAA Tournament win when they, as a No. 14 seed, beat No. 3 seed Indiana. The Hoosiers won the national championship the following season.
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Carr missed open 3-pointers on the first two possessions, but Gabe Kalscheur hit one for the first points as the Gophers quickly got going. Carr swished one from the top of the key to give them a 24-12 lead, turning to the Cleveland State bench to hold his index finger to his lips as if to tell the Vikings to keep quiet. New Cleveland State coach Dennis Gates called over an official and Minnesota counterpart Richard Pitino to speak with them briefly during the next dead ball.
Carr, a sophomore who sat out last season after arriving from Pittsburgh, is one of three transfers in the starting lineup. Willis, a junior, came from Vanderbilt. Alihan Demir, a senior who had 10 points in his debut, switched from Drexel as a graduate transfer.
The Vikings went 3 for 19 from 3-point range. They made 303 shots from behind the arc last season, a program record that also ranked in the top 25 in the country.
Cleveland State: Gates, a first-time head coach who was an assistant at Florida State for the last eight years, has a tall task in front of him with a team that went 10-21 last season and was picked to finish last in the Horizon League in a preseason poll of head coaches, sports information directors and media members. The Vikings also lost leading scorer Tyree Appleby, a sophomore point guard who transferred to Florida after the coaching change. They have players from eight different states and four from foreign countries on their 16-man roster, including 11 newcomers to match the fifth-most among all NCAA Division I programs. The Vikings have another road game against a power conference team on Nov. 15, at South Carolina.
Minnesota: This game against an overmatched low major opponent was the only tuneup the Gophers, who have seven newcomers on the roster, will get before a challenging week with three high major teams on the schedule, all away from home: Oklahoma, Butler and Utah. The perimeter play will be a critical factor in this team’s success, with a concerted effort by Pitino and his staff to increase and improve the outside shooting after the Gophers ranked 306th out of 351 teams in Division I in 3-point percentage (31.7) last season. They were 317th in attempts.
Cleveland State: Hosts Edinboro, a Division II team from Pennsylvania, on Saturday afternoon.
Minnesota: Plays Oklahoma on Saturday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the third time the Gophers have played a nonconference game at the Sanford Pentagon arena in five years. They lost to Oklahoma State in 2015 and beat Vanderbilt in 2016.