Following a victory at home and a neutral-site loss in Sioux Falls, S.D., the Gophers men's basketball team took on Butler for their first true-road test of the season at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.
Minnesota (1-2) did not manage got get back on track against Butler (3-0), falling 64-56. An inconsistent Gophers offense never found a consistent rhythm on Tuesday, shooting 17-51 from the field and committing 18 turnovers.
"The turnovers, 18 turnovers you can't win on the road when you do that," head coach Richard Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. "It's nearly impossible."
Early in the game, it appeared the Gophers offense was still suffering from the same struggles it faced during the second half of a 71-62 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. After sophomore Daniel Oturu hit a 3-point shot on the game's opening sequence, Butler answered back with a 9-0 run.
Throughout much of the first half, Minnesota struggled to shoot, opening the game 1-8 on 3-point attempts. However, with 6:30 remaining until the end of the first half, Minnesota went on a 12-3 run to claim their first lead since Oturu's game-opening three.
Butler did reclaim the advantage before halftime, but the Gophers were able to remain within striking distance, thanks in large part to Oturu who had 14 first-half points. He also brought down seven rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass. Furthermore, Oturu drilled two 3-point field goals in the first half, despite entering the game with only one prior in his career.
Coming out of the intermission, the Gophers once again started slow. Despite taking four minutes for the team to score in the second half, a corner three from sophomore Gabe Kalscheur cut the Butler lead to 32-29.
Kalscheur fought through a challenging first half in which he only scored one basket and began to contribute early in the second half. A 6-0 run put Minnesota back in front before the lead changed on three-straight scores. Then, another corner three from Kalscheur gave Minnesota the 39-38 edge with 10:31 remaining.
From there, the game repeated the script from Minnesota's loss to Oklahoma. That one point advantage was the last lead the Gophers held. Afterward, the team conceded momentum to Butler, who used a 16-5 run to open up some distance between the two sides.
In the final minutes, the Gophers could never cut their deficit to less than six points. Even though the Bulldogs missed some foul shots down the stretch, Minnesota failed to generate enough offense to get close.
"We have to execute better," Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. "And just figure out is it execution, is it intellect, what are we doing? Are we taking chances? And just play more fundamentally sound than we've been doing."
A lack of production from their starting guards hindered the Gophers. Kalscheur, redshirt sophomore Marcus Carr and redshirt junior Payton Willis shot a combined 8-32 from the floor, including 4-19 from 3-point range.
Oturu was a positive for Minnesota on an otherwise frustrating evening. He finished with a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds to complete his second double-double of the season.
Butler senior Kamar Baldwin turned in a stand-out performance, finishing with a game-high 27 points. Baldwin had been limited to 3.5 points per game in 2019-20 after suffering an injury in the Bulldogs' season opener, but looked to be at full health on Tuesday, shooting 10-24 from the field.
The Gophers will face another test on the road in their next game against Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pitino says the team must learn from their consecutive losses to earn a victory on Friday.
"We have to learn from this," Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. "This team has a lot of new players, a lot of new faces. It's not a veteran team that can say, 'Hey, let's flush it, let's move on.' We have to get better and go prepare for Utah."