The first three games of the season for the Gophers men’s basketball team was basically the Marcus Carr Show. The high-scoring junior point guard averaged nearly 30 points per game — and even hit a winning three-pointer.
When Carr wasn’t leading the way, talented transfer Both Gach was his backcourt sidekick.
Boston College knew shutting down Carr and Gach could be the key to the upset in Tuesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
But after the Gophers’ dynamic guards were held to just six points on 2-for-9 shooting combined in the first half, Carr and Gach got into rhythm late to help lead the Gophers to an 85-80 overtime victory against the pesky Eagles.
Carr and Gach, who entered the game averaging 42 points combined, scored 32 of their 38 points in the second half and overtime for the Gophers (5-0) to remain undefeated.
In his fourth game with 20-plus points this season, Carr scored nine of Minnesota’s 15 points in OT, including 5-for-6 on free throws.
“You don’t panic at halftime, you stay the course,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “Marcus is too good of a player to do that. He was really, really good in the locker room. He showed great leadership. He showed great poise. He’s a very confident player.”
Playing their first game this season against a major conference opponent, Pitino didn’t know how his newcomer-laden team would handle tougher competition. They struggled mightily through the first 26 minutes, falling behind 52-37 on Jay Heath’s three-pointer about six minutes into the second half.
The Eagles, who beat Minnesota at home by 12 points in 2018, led then-No. 3 Villanova by nine in the second half in this year’s season opener before falling 76-67. Heath and Wynston Tabbs combined for 40 points Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough for the Eagles (1-4) again.
At the end of regulation, Carr and Gach combined for 13 of their team’s 15 points when Gach’s two free throws with 2:18 left tied the game 68-68.
Liam Robbins, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, gave the Gophers a two-point lead that nearly held. But Makai Ashton-Langford scored over Robbins to tie it 70-70 for Boston College with 5.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Gophers’ second-half deficit seemed insurmountable until they got a spark off the bench. Jamal Mashburn Jr., Isaiah Ihnen and Tre’ Williams combined to score 22 points, including 12 in the second half and overtime.
The trio delivered with seven of Minnesota’s nine points during a stretch, including Williams’ layup for 53-52 lead at the 9:13 mark. Mashburn, a freshman, scored 10 points.
“Both and Marcus are great players,” Mashburn said. “They’re professionals the way they carry themselves. As a professional, you have to be able to finish close games. They’re great, and I tried to bring the energy along with Tre’ off the bench to help uplift those guys rather than bring them down.”
Carr and Gach fueled the late comeback Tuesday night, but it was a team effort that carried over into a moment with their fallen teammate after the game.
Pitino gave a postgame speech in the training room, where starting senior forward Brandon Johnson was in pain after hurting his left ankle in overtime.
The entire team went to support Johnson after the game.
“It was really the players’ decision,” Williams said. “We didn’t want to leave him out of the postgame speech, so we told [Pitino] let’s have it in the training room.”