The Michigan men’s basketball team looked invincible earlier this week, extending its undefeated start with a dominant win over ninth-ranked Wisconsin on Tuesday. That didn’t last.
On Saturday, Jan. 16, the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ strong defense stymied the Big Ten-leading Wolverines and handed the seventh-ranked team in the country its first loss, 75-57, at Williams Arena. No. 23 Minnesota notched its second win over a Top 10 team this season and improved to 4-4 in Big Ten play — all against ranked teams.
When the Gophers embarked on this tough start, head coach Richard Pitino didn’t look it as one-way street. “I would hope that everybody feels it’s a challenge to play us,” he said in mid-December.
Minnesota (11-4, 4-4 Big Ten) has proven that at The Barn, with wins over Michigan (11-1, 6-1), No. 5 Iowa, Michigan State and No. 21 Ohio State to start conference play.
Michigan’s aura was built in part when the Wolverines demolished Minnesota 10 days ago. They led by 37 on the way to a comfortable, 82-57 win in Ann Arbor. Presumptive Big Ten freshman of the year Hunter Dickinson had 28 points, and Franz Wagner added 12.
Minnesota’s defense contributed to 20 turnovers by Michigan and kept star freshman center Hunter Dickinson to nine points and forward Franz Wagner to eight.
Gophers center Liam Robbins, who matched up with Dickinson, led Minnesota with 22 points, including three 3-pointers to keep Wolverines at bay in the second half. He overcame early foul trouble to add eight rebounds and two blocks.
Gophers guard Gabe Kalscheur defended Wagner and kept him scoreless in the first half.
Marcus Carr added 17 points and six assists.
When the game ended, Gophers players were able to celebrate the victory with members of their families inside The Barn for the first time this season.
Minnesota has finished the longest stretch of games against ranked opponents in college basketball in a decade. Minnesota’s run of seven straight is one fewer than St. John’s had in 2011.
The Wolverines were without starting guard Eli Brooks, who sprained his foot in practice. He leads the team with 31 minutes per game and likely would have defended Carr.
Minnesota’s seven-point halftime lead started on the defensive end by forcing 11 turnovers from Michigan and directly leading to 10 points for the Gophers. It helped cover up how Minnesota shot 0 for 11 from three-point range.
The Gophers took a 8-2 lead at the 15-minute mark, but Robbins picked up two early fouls and had to sit. But Dickinson surprisingly took a set as well with only one foul and Michigan wasn’t able to take advantage down low.
Eric Curry filling in well, with six points, two assists and two steals during that stretch.
The Wolverines had a 9-0 run to cut Minnesota’s lead to 24-21, but six made free throws kept Michigan at arm’s length.