The No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers came into the first-round matchup against the No. 7 seed Louisville Cardinals. After 40 minutes of NCAA Tournament action, the Gophers were clearly the better team, winning 86-76 in the first game of the day.
The Gophers used a dominant performance by their starting five to outscore the Cardinals by five points in each half. They scored every single point for the Gophers. More importantly, each member reached double figures in the victory. Gabe Kalscheur led the way with 24 points and 8 rebounds. He connected on 5 of 11 shots from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, the Gophers got 18 points and 6 rebounds apiece from Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy. Coffey set the tone early with stellar defense, but his 3-pointer before the halftime buzzer gave the Gophers a five point lead at the break. Murphy opened the second half with a 3-point make. All of a sudden, the Gophers turned a two point lead into an 8 point lead in 11 seconds of action. Coffey and Murphy connected on back to back buckets to give the Gophers a 50-38 lead.
Moments later, it became the Kalscheur show. He made consecutive 3-pointers to take a 59-43 lead. Then, the Louisville defense fouled him on a 3-point attempt and he made all three free throws to give the Gophers a 62-44 lead.
The Cardinals tried to fight back with pressure defense. They got as close as seven points on Darius Perry’s layup with 2:06 left in the game. However, the lead was too insurmountable for the Cardinals to overcome.
Dupree McBrayer and Daniel Oturu each scored 13 points for the Gophers. The bench only played 17 total minutes in the game. Going forward, the Gophers might need more contributions if they expect to advance. However, the Gophers will either be the favorite or playing a familiar foe in the round of 32.
Jordan Nwora scored the first two points of the NCAA Tournament. He was 1 of 4 Louisville players to reach double figures with 10 points. Nwora also grabbed 11 rebounds for the Cardinals. Christen Cunningham led the Cardinals with 22 points. Steven Enoch (14) and Perry (12) combined for 26 points off the bench.
The Cardinals were even in rebounding margin at 32. However, the Gophers shot 50 percent from the field. They also hit 11 of 27 from 3-point range to really shock the Cardinals’ defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals shot 44 percent from the field and 9 of 26 from 3-point range. The Gophers enter the second round with a (22-13) record. The Cardinals finished their season with a (20-14) record.
Next up: Winner of No. 15 Bradley Braves vs. No. 2 Michigan State Spartans.