DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Minnesota won its first NCAA Tournament game in six years behind 24 points from freshman Gabe Kalscheur as the 10th-seeded Gophers rolled past Louisville 86-76 in the opening round of the East Region on Thursday.
It was the first tournament win in Richard Pitino’s six seasons coaching the Gophers and came against the school that fired his father, Rick Pitino, in 2017.
Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey each had 18 points for Minnesota (22-13), which knocked down 11 3s despite entering play ranked 344th nationally in made 3s per game.
Kalscheur’s layup early in the second half gave Minnesota its first double-digit lead, 43-33, and Murphy’s layup made it a 50-38 game with 16:06 left.
The Cardinals went to a full-court press in an effort to slow down the surging Gophers. But that just left Kalscheur open from the same spot on back-to-back possessions, and he drilled two 3s to give Minnesota a 59-43 lead.
Louisville then fouled Kalscheur behind the 3-point line, where he pushed the Gophers’ edge to 19 with 9:48 to go.
Murphy’s 3 with 5:28 left — just his seventh all year — made it a 15-point game and typified just how well things were rolling for Minnesota,
The seventh-seeded Cardinals (20-14) did cut it to seven late, but Christen Cunningham missed an open 3 that could’ve made things interesting down the stretch.
Cunningham led Louisville (20-14) with 22 points, and Steven Enoch had 14.
THE BIG PICTURE
Minnesota: This was the breakthrough Pitino had been searching for from the Gophers. Minnesota played arguably its best game of the season, and Kalscheur scored more points in 40 minutes than he did in three games during the Big Ten tournament.
Louisville: Despite dropping his first NCAA Tournament game with the Cardinals, coach Chris Mack’s future looks bright at Louisville — especially if Jordan Nwora (10 points, 11 rebounds) returns next season. Louisville got no help in the game location, less than 250 miles from Minneapolis, which created a de-facto home game for the Gophers.
Minnesota plays the Michigan State-Bradley winner on Saturday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
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