MINNEAPOLIS --When Marcus Carr was working out in his native Toronto in the summer, the Minnesota Golden Gophers incumbent point guard wanted to be in the best shape of his life this season.
“Make sure that I’m able and ready to play all that I can and do what is best for the team,” the preseason all-Big Ten honoree said Tuesday.
Last year, that meant playing a Big Ten-leading 36.9 minutes per game. This year, Carr might not be called on to log all that court time, and that would be a good thing for Richard Pitino’s team.
Minnesota showed what appears to be a deeper team in 2020-21 with a 99-69 rout over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday at Williams Arena.
Carr poured in 35 points, matching his career high set last December in the upset over then-third-ranked Ohio State, and he took a seat after 30 minutes.
Gabe Kalscheur had 17 points in 33 minutes and Utah transfer Both Gach added 14 points in 30 minutes.
Besides Carr a year ago, Pitino also rode Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu. In minutes per game, Oturu was third in the conference (34.0) and Kalscheur seventh (33.3).
“If you look at the last four years, obviously (NCAA) Tournament in two of the last three, depth has been the issue,” Pitino said. “I think it’s our most-deep team by far.”
The Gophers were without backup sophomore guard guard Tre’ Williams, who is dealing with a shoulder injury.
“I think the depth showed there because we were able to fill in some other guys and not really miss a beat because Tre’ is going to play minutes for us,” Pitino said, adding freshman guard David Mutaf also was unavailable without adding details.
But Carr, who explored leaving early for the NBA last offseason, led the way on Wednesday. His trimmed down physique showed how much he worked in the offseason.
“I think he put everybody in this program on notice when he came back from Toronto,” Pitino said. “Everybody looked over and said, ‘He’s trying to take the next step’ and that leadership, more so than the words, really has resonated with a lot of our guys.”
The Gophers, a 19-point favorite, led by 33 points just after halftime, but Green Bay cut it to 10 with eight minutes left, and Minnesota had to play its regulars for longer. Pitino felt like his team was fouling too much and it allowed the Phoenix to rise back into the game.
Green Bay, which is picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League, in breaking in a new head coach, Will Ryan, son of former Badgers’ coach Bo Ryan, and nearly all new players.
Eleven Gophers played, 10 scored and nine played double-digit minutes. Five made their debuts, including Gach, Liam Robbins, Brandon Johnson, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Martice Mitchell.
Robbins, who is replacing Oturu, an NBA draft pick by the Clippers last week, had 10 points and nine rebounds, but dealt with foul trouble. Pitino added that Robbins has had an undisclosed injury and “he’s trying to work his way back into it, but I thought he was really good as well.”
Minnesota, which had to shutdown the program for at least five days earlier this month, had COVID-19 under control enough to made Wednesday’s opener possible, even if there were no fans to witness it live.
“It’s definitely something that we are getting used to,” Carr said about an empty Barn. “This is Game 1 for us, so it was definitely something that was different. We definitely miss having the Barn and all our fans and the Gopher faithful getting on their feet for us, whether we are going on a run or if we need that extra boost to kind of turn things around.”
The Gophers’ domination started early, with a 12-0 lead and Green Bay not making its first basket until more than six minutes were gone and Minnesota was up 19-2.
Minnesota led 53-22 at the half and cruised besides a few-minute lull in the second half.